In the recent turn of events, a South Korean spy agency reportedly said that the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un did not receive heart surgery when he disappeared from state media for three weeks. Kim recently attended an event at a fertilizer factory which was also the first report of his appearing in public since April 11. His absence led to a flurry of speculation about his health and whereabouts. Several media outlets also reported that the health of the North Korean leader was in ‘grave danger after surgery.
However, the members of South Korea’s parliamentary intelligence committee after meeting with the National Intelligence Service (NIS) reportedly said that the reports were ‘groundless’. While speaking to an international media outlet, committee member Kim Byung-kee said that the NIS assess that at least Kim Jong Un did not get any heart-related procedure or surgery. Byung-kee added that Kim was normally performing his duties when he was out of the public eye.
The lawmakers briefed by the spy agency, on the other hand, reportedly said that the leader only made 17 public appearances so far this year, compared with an average of 50 from the previous year. Byung-kee added that Kim Jong Un had focused on consolidating internal affairs such as military forces and party-state meetings. He also noted that the coronavirus concern has also further limited his public activity.
Furthermore, Byung-kee also added that Kim’s visit to the fertilizer factory appeared to be aimed at expressing his resolve to ease food shortages and build a self-reliant economy. Kim’s public disappearance is also believed to be unusual because the country had been taking stringent steps to head off an outbreak.
Meanwhile, a local South Korean media outlet, Yonhap had also cited an unnamed senior official at the Blue House saying that despite the conflicting media reports about Kim based on ‘difference to his walk’, the officials in South Korea ‘have reasons to believe that there was no surgery’. However, the unidentified official further added, ‘but cannot disclose such details’.
Speculations over the condition of Kim’s health and his sudden lack of public appearances grew intense when an American media cited US intelligence monitoring North Korea to claim that Kim was in ‘grave danger’ after cardiovascular surgery. However, hours after that report sent shock waves, two government sources of international media outlet from South Korea said on April 21 that he was ‘not gravely ill’.