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North Korea’s Kim Jong Un reported to be in fragile condition after recent surgery

North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un oversees a military exercise at an undisclosed location on March 21.
(Associated Press)

South Korea’s presidential office says no suspicious activities have been detected in North Korea, a statement made Tuesday after reports surfaced that Kim Jong Un was in fragile condition after recent heart surgery.

The presidential Blue House says it had no information about the rumors on Kim’s health. Speculation often surfaces about North Korea’s leadership based on attendance at important state events. Kim, who is in his mid-30s, missed the celebration of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, the country’s most important holiday.

At his last public appearance, he presided over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on April 11, discussing preventive measures against the coronavirus and electing his sister as an alternate member of the bureau. However, state media reported Kim sent greetings to Syrian President Bashar Assad last week and a “birthday spread” to a North Korean woman who turned 100 on Monday.

“We have no information to confirm regarding rumors about Chairman Kim Jong Un’s health issue that have been reported by some media outlets. Also, no unusual developments have been detected inside North Korea,” Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok said in the statement.

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A U.S. official said the White House was aware before the reports appeared late Monday that Kim’s health might be precarious. The official said the U.S. had information that Kim may have undergone surgery and that complications may have rendered him “incapacitated or worse.” But, the official stressed that the U.S. had nothing to confirm the surgery had taken place or that any complications had occurred.

North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said it would examine why Trump released ‘the ungrounded story’ to the media.

“We just don’t know,” said the official, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The U.S. official would not elaborate on where the information came from or when it had been received. The White House and State Department had no comment.

Daily NK, an online newspaper focused on North Korea that often cites defectors or unspecified sources within North Korea, had cited anonymous sources saying Kim was recovering from heart surgery in the capital, Pyongyang, and that his condition was improving.

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An official from Seoul’s National Intelligence Service, who didn’t want to be named, citing office rules, said the spy agency couldn’t confirm whether Kim had had surgery.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said his government was monitoring the situation.

A political upheaval in North Korea would be unlikely even if Kim became sidelined by health problems, according to analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.

Cheong said Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, is already exercising significant influence within the government and that most members of Pyongyang’s leadership share an interest with the Kim family in maintaining the North’s system.

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