No signs Kim had heart surgery, South Korean intelligence says

“Thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah'” were heard as the factory was opened, according to KCNA. Source: AFP
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Daily US Times: South Korea’s intelligence dismissed the rumours regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s health, saying there are no signs he had heart surgery.

Kim Jong-un recently went 20 days without appearing in public, and missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday – one of the biggest events of the year, what he had never missed.

Speculations were circulating all over the world, while some media reports claimed he was “gravely ill”, or even dead. But he then appeared at a fertiliser factory – apparently in good health.

What did South Korean intelligence say?

Suh Hoon, the head of South Korea’s intelligence agency, spoke to a parliamentary committee on Wednesday.

The country’s Yonhap news agency reports, Mr Hoon said there were no signs that rumours about Kim Jong-un’s health were true.

The committee heard the North Korean leader had appeared in public 17 times this year, though by this time of year, he would normally have appeared 50 times.

One member of the committee said that could have been down to a Covid-19 outbreak – even though North Korea officially has no cases.

“Kim Jong-un had focused on consolidating internal affairs such as military forces and party-state meetings, and coronavirus concerns have further limited his public activity.”

South Korea also denied the rumour previously too.

What sparked speculation about his health?

Speculation about Mr Kim’s health began after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of his grandfather, state founder Kim Il Sung on 15 April.

This is very very rare for him as it is one of the country’s biggest celebrations and he attended the ceremony every year. He never missed the event.

Rumors and speculations further sparked about Mr Kim’s ill-health when in a report of Daily NK surfaced.

An anonymous source told the Daily NK, the website focuses on North Korean affairs closely, that they understood he had been struggling with cardiovascular problems since last August “but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu”.

This led to a chain of reporting by international media on a single-sourced story.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said on Thursday that US officials “haven’t seen” North Korean leader Kim Jong-un recently. He also said the US is watching reports about his health “closely”.

Mr Pompeo also expressed concern that the hermit state could be hit either famine or by the coronavirus outbreak.

In 2014, Kim Jong-Un disappeared for 40 days – sparking a torrent of speculation – before reappearing, pictured with a cane.