N. Korean leader’s health in question as his absence continues, Latest World News - The New Paper

N. Korean leader’s health in question as his absence continues

This article is more than 12 months old

SEOUL: Speculation has been mounting over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's health since his conspicuous absence from the April 15 birthday celebrations of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, the country's founder.

Analysts initially suggested that Mr Kim could have skipped the celebrations to emphasise his own authority over his family's legacy.

But his continued public absence since has sparked reports he was ailing after recent surgery, even that he was either dead or on his death bed.

Quoting an unnamed North Korean source last Monday, Seoul-based online news site Daily NK said Mr Kim, believed to be 36, underwent a cardiovascular procedure on April 12.

This was apparently a result of his heavy smoking, obesity and fatigue.

South Korea has played down the report.

Citing people familiar with the situation, Reuters reported on Saturday that China had sent a team of medical experts and officials to North Korea on Thursday to advise on Mr Kim.

On Saturday, satellite photos reviewed by a Washington-based think-tank indicated that Mr Kim's train was parked in the resort town of Wonsan.

The 38North think-tank cautioned that the train's presence "does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health".

"But it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country's eastern coast," it said.

South Korea's Newsis news agency, which also reported the presence of Mr Kim's train in Wonsan, said he could be sheltering from Covid-19, though the secretive nation has yet to report a single confirmed case.

In 2014, Mr Kim vanished from the public eye for more than a month before appearing on North Korean state TV, which showed him walking with a limp. - AFP, REUTERS