Reports on Kim Jong-un's health are further deteriorating

Media is now claiming that theNorth Korean leader is either in a critical, “vegetative state” or already dead

Photo: AP North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un

The whereabouts and health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un remain shrouded in mystery, with reports ranging from that he is gravely ill after a cardiovascular operation to that he’s already dead. As a result, Reuters is now reporting that China sent medical experts to the communist state in an advisory capacity. 

The Chinese delegation, led by a senior member of China’s International Liaison Department (the agency that handles relations with their southeast neighbour) left Beijing on Thursday, but the news agency said it was unable to determine what the trip indicated about Kim’s medical condition.

As Europost reminds, speculation of Kim’s condition has been mounting for two weeks already because of his lack of public appearances. According to media, Kim’s last confirmed public appearance was 11 April, when he led a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party committee of policymakers, according to North Korean state media reports.

Afterward, he was missing when North Korea had launched tests of short-range cruise missiles off its coast on 14 April. The supreme leader of Noth Korea has been absent during his grandfather and founder of North Korea, Kim Il-sung’s birthday celebrations on 15 April. Most lately, the country on Saturday celebrated the 88th anniversary of the founding of its armed forces, the Korean People's Revolutionary Army - but noticeably missing from fanfare in the state-controlled media footage was once again the country’s supreme leader.

This is also not the first time Kim or other North Korean officials are spending weeks without public appearances due to secretive health problems. In 2014, Kim was not seen out in public for 40 days, before he reemerged appearing to walk with a limp and using a cane. State media reported he had suffered from “an uncomfortable medical condition,” without elaborating. Even recently as February, Kim went nearly three weeks without public appearances. 

According to media, the most recent absence of the leader is caused by heart surgery earlier this month. The news was reported by the Seoul-based website Daily NK, which claimed Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on 12 April. The outlet cited one unnamed source in North Korea. On Saturday, the vice director of HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television, a Beijing-backed broadcast network in Hong Kong, further claimed that Kim was dead, citing a “very solid source.” Her post on the Chinese messaging app Weibo has been shared widely on social media, according to a report in the International Business Times.

Meanwhile, the weekly Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai said that North Korea’s rocket man is in a “vegetative state” after the surgery, citing a Chinese medic sent to North Korea as part of a team to treat Kim. Other unconfirmed reports, attributed to senior party sources in Beijing, said an operation to insert a stent went wrong because the surgeon’s hands were shaking so badly.

Yet, a senior official told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency last week the report was simply “not true,” and Kang Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said there had been “no unusual signs have been identified inside North Korea.” Trump administration officials have said only that Washington continues to monitor the reports, while analysts noted that speculation tends to swirl about North Korea because of its notoriously authoritarian controls on information - especially regarding the ruling Kim family.

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