AGENCIES, Seoul: Speculations about the health of North Korea’s 36-year-old ‘Supreme Leader’ leader Kim Jong Un have been in circulation following his conspicuous absence on North Korea’s annual Day of the Sun ceremony on April 15 for the first time. The health of Kim is one of the country’s most closely guarded secrets and is only known by a handful of people in the inner circle of leadership.
The US was monitoring intelligence reports that Kim may be in “grave danger after a surgery,” news agency CNN reported, citing a US official with direct knowledge of the matter. However, that rumour was squashed by two South Korean government sources who said on Tuesday that the North Korean leader was not gravely ill, but was recovering from a cardiovascular procedure.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based speciality website, cited unidentified sources inside the isolated state saying Kim is recovering at a villa in the Mount Kumgang resort county of Hyangsan on the east coast after undergoing the cardiovascular procedure at a hospital on April 12.
Kim’s health has deteriorated in recent months due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork, the Daily NK report also added.
An authoritative US source familiar with internal US government reporting on North Korea questioned the CNN report that Kim is seriously ill, even though he has been out of the public eye for an extended period.
There has been speculation over Kim’s health after he was absent from an event marking the anniversary of the birthday of its founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
On April 12, North Korean state media reported that Kim Jong Un had visited an airbase and observed drills by fighter jets and attack aircraft.
Two days later North Korea launched multiple short-range anti-ship cruise missiles into the sea and Sukhoi jets fired air-to-surface missiles as part of military exercises, South Korea’s military said.
The missile tests were done on the eve of a national holiday in North Korea to celebrate the birthday of Kim Il Sung.
US President Donald Trump met Kim in 2018 to discuss the possibility of giving up his nukes in Vietnam in February of last year, but talks stalled after North Korea demanded immediate relief from US sanctions in return for only partial steps toward disarmament.