Seoul | Kim Jong-un is “alive and well,” said South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s special adviser on national security, minimizing rumours about suspected health problems of the North Korean leader.
News of Kim Jong-un’s health has multiplied since his absence noted at the April 15 celebrations. This day is, however, the most important on the North Korean political calendar, because the whole country commemorates the birth of the founder of the regime, Kim Il Sung, his grandfather.
“Our government’s position is firm,” councillor Moon Chung-in told American television station CNN on Sunday. “Kim Jong-un is alive and well.”
The adviser added that the North Korean leader had been staying since April 13 in Wonsan, a seaside resort in eastern North Korea. “No suspicious action has so far been detected,” he said.
Kim has not appeared in public since a meeting of the political bureau of the single ruling party on April 11 and an inspection tour of an airbase that had been reported by official North Korean media on April 12.
This absence gave rise to the publication of a whole series of information on his state of health, quickly relativized by Seoul.
“We have nothing to confirm” the news, said the office of the South Korean president last week.
South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-Chul said on Monday that this was still the case.
He said he could draw such conclusions through a “complex process” aimed at “gathering and assessing information”.
These comments come two years after the first summit between MM. Kim and Moon in Panmunjon, in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which divides the peninsula into two states.
South Korea celebrated the anniversary on Monday, organizing a ceremony at the northernmost station in its territory, to highlight its commitment to a cross-border rail project.
Relations between the two countries have largely been frozen since talks between Washington and Pyongyang came to a standstill.
Daily NK, an online media outlet mainly run by defected North Koreans, said the North Korean leader had been operated on in April for cardiovascular problems and was recovering in a villa in the province from North Pyongan.
Citing an unidentified North Korean source, the media claimed that Kim, who is in his 30s, had to be treated urgently due to problems related to “his excessive smoking, obesity and tired”.
South Korea, which is still technically at war with the North, had received all of this with the greatest reservations.
CNN, citing an American official, had for its part reported that Washington “studied information” according to which Kim Jong Un was “in serious danger after a surgical operation”.
But Thursday, US President Donald Trump said the news about a possible deterioration in the health of the North Korean leader was “wrong”.
On Monday, the official newspaper Rodong Sinmun wrote that Kim Jong Un had sent a message of thanks to the workers of the gigantic coastal tourism project of Wonsan Kalma.
The North Korean media have in recent days reported numerous statements or actions by Mr. Kim, but did not provide photos showing this.
Last week, a train apparently belonging to him was spotted in satellite photos of a seaside resort in eastern North Korea, according to the American website 38North.
The coverage of North Korean news is particularly complicated, especially for everything related to the private life of Mr. Kim, one of the regime’s best-kept secrets.
All information “must be taken with caution,” warned Andrei Lankov, an expert from North Korea, while describing the disappearance as “unusual”.
“So for some reason, he is not really able to act publicly,” he told AFP.
In 2014, he had not been seen for six weeks before reappearing with a cane. South Korean intelligence said it had undergone surgery to remove an ankle cyst.
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