The South Korean government on Tuesday was looking into US media reports saying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was in fragile condition after surgery. Officials from South Korea’s Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Service said they couldn’t immediately confirm the report. CNN cited an anonymous US official who said Kim was in grave danger after an unspecified surgery.
The unification ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said it couldn’t confirm another report by Daily NK, which cited anonymous sources to report that Kim was recovering from heart surgery in the capital Pyongyang and that his condition was improving.
Speculation about Kim’s health was raised after he missed the celebration of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15. The April 15 birthday of the North’s founder is the most important celebration of the nuclear-armed country’s annual political calendar, known as the Day of the Sun. North Koreans are taught from birth to revere Kim Il Sung and his son and successor Kim Jong Il, father of the current leader, and all adults wear badges depicting one or both men.
Credible information about North Korea and especially its leadership is difficult to obtain and even intelligence agencies have been wrong about its inner workings in the past.
Kim has presided over four of the North’s six nuclear tests and overseen a rapid advance in its weapons technology, developing missiles capable of reaching the entire US mainland. That has seen his country subjected to multiple UN Security Council sanctions as a result.
Since 2018, he has taken part in a series of summits with US President Donald Trump and the South’s leader Moon Jae-in, although talks with Washington are currently deadlocked.
Kim last appeared in state media at the weekend, when he presided over a meeting of the Workers’ Party political bureau on Saturday.
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