A South Korean minister has addressed the death rumors surrounding the North’s leader, explaining his disappearance by the desire to shield him from Covid-19. Seoul has “confident” intelligence quashing the speculation, he said.
The swirling rumors that Kim Jong-un is dead or incapacitated are based on nothing but “fake news,” South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said as he spoke to lawmakers this Tuesday. He then took aim at the widely quoted CNN report from last week that suggested a failed cardiovascular surgery had put the North Korean leader in “grave danger.”
The network’s scoop came as Daily NK, a Seoul-based outlet, alleged the leader was recuperating at the Hyangsan Medical Center on North Korea’s east coast. “That cannot make sense logically […] The Hyangsan Medical Center is like a clinic, a facility incapable of performing surgery or medical procedures,” Minister Kim explained, as cited by Yonhap.
Therefore, the media fuss around Kim’s health shouldn’t be taken at face value, the minister urged.
It can be seen as a phenomenon of ‘infodemic’. We have intelligence capacity that allows us to say confidently that there are no unusual signs.
The whereabouts of the North Korean leader, who disappeared from the public view earlier this month, still remain a mystery. On April 15, he notably missed nationwide celebrations to mark the birthday of Kim Il-sung, his grandfather, and the communist country’s founder, giving birth to speculation that he is unwell.
Observers were particularly stunned by the fact that he had not missed the event – one of the most important occasions in North Korea’s political calendar – since he succeeded from his father Kim Jong-il back in 2011.
But for South Korea’s unification minister, there was nothing incriminating in skipping the celebration, under the circumstances. He suggested Pyongyang has been downsizing commemorative events amid the Covid-19 epidemic – which has infected nobody in the reclusive country, according to its official claims.
Speaking alongside Kim, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha also brushed aside the speculation. “Despite a series of recent media reports, no unusual signs have been detected inside North Korea,” she told the parliament.
Seoul has been signaling in recent days that the death rumors are grossly exaggerated. On Monday, a national security adviser to the South Korean president said Kim is “alive and well,” also citing some intelligence reports.
Later, US President Donald Trump – who claims to have established a personal rapport with Chairman Kim – said he has “a very good idea” as to his “friend’s” health. “I can’t talk about it now. I just wish him well,” he told the media without elaborating.
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