Is North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Sick?

Date: 2020-04-21 10:00:46

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Mystery surrounded Kim Jong Un’s health after U.S. and South Korean officials gave differing accounts of the North Korean leader’s condition following his unusual absence from recent holiday celebrations.

Kim was in critical condition after undergoing cardiovascular surgery last week and the Trump administration wasn’t sure of his current health, said U.S. officials, who asked not to be identified. One of the officials said the White House was told that Kim took a turn for the worse after the procedure, while CNN earlier cited a U.S. official with direct knowledge saying the 36-year-old leader may be in “grave danger.” The White House declined to comment.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s office said that Kim was conducting “normal activities” in a rural part of the country assisted by close aides and no special movements were detected. Moon spokesman Kang Min-seok said earlier there was nothing to confirm on the speculation over Kim’s health.

The news around Kim’s health spurred the benchmark Kospi gauge to extend losses to as much as 3% while the won slid as much as 1.7% against the dollar. The Kospi closed 1% lower.

The health of Kim, overweight and a heavy smoker, is one of North Korea’s most closely guarded secrets, typically only known by a handful of people in the inner circle of leadership. While North Korea had scaled down major events as it battles the coronavirus pandemic, speculation about Kim had been growing since his unprecedented absence from April 15 celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung, one of the biggest days on the country’s calendar.

Even the most well-informed North Korea experts find it hard to tell what’s happening in the secretive state. The Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that gathers information from informants inside the isolated nation, separately reported that Kim underwent a “cardiovascular surgical procedure” and was now mostly recovered. Reuters cited an official with the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department saying that Kim wasn’t believed to be critically ill.

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