Rumors about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are swirling around the world, with one report out of Japan claiming that the Communist leader is in a “vegetative state.” Other reports say that Kim is experiencing complications from heart surgery. Still other reports claim that Kim is not ill, but that he left the capitol because the political situation was heating up.
Whatever the reason, Kim has not been seen in public since April 11, despite two national celebrations. He failed to show at the commemoration of his grandfather’s birthday, and he’s nowhere to be seen on the anniversary of the formation of the North Korean army.
Something is amiss in the Hermit Kingdom.
Reports emerged earlier this week that Kim was gravely ill following heart surgery, although that has since been disputed. However, Japanese media now claims that Kim is in a vegetative state following a stent procedure.
Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai reported that Kim collapsed during a visit to a rural area in April. Kim reportedly required a stent procedure following the incident.
Shukan Gendai subsequently detailed how the surgeon in charge of Kim’s operation was not used to dealing with obese patients and was too nervous during the operation, leading to delays that left Kim in a “vegetative state.”
The magazine cited an unnamed member of Kim’s medical team.
Kim is 36 years old, but I bet his arteries are twice that age. His gorging on fatty fried Western foods that he has flown in for his personal enjoyment may have caught up with him.
Most curiously, Reuters is reporting that a delegation from the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left for North Korea this week. The delegation is headed up by a bureaucrat, but Reuters is reporting that there are medical experts in the delegation.
China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.
The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader. Reuters was unable to immediately determine what the trip by the Chinese team signaled in terms of Kim’s health.
A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea.
The South Korean media is trying to avoid speculation and is playing the story pretty straight. U.S. intelligence is also reporting that there appear to be no unusual moves by the North Korean government.
Could Kim’s absence be related to politics more than the leader’s health? Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, was recently given the job of propaganda chief and has been seen in close proximity to her brother on several occasions. There is even speculation that she is next in line to succeed her brother.
Her elevation may have ruffled feathers and I’m sure there are plenty of people who would give her a fight for the top spot if Kim dies. Unless Kim dies suddenly, you wouldn’t think she has much of a chance.
Succession in Communist countries is always a guessing game and some of the rumors of Kim’s imminent demise may be coming from rivals in North Korea. Still, North Korea is an unstable nuclear-armed dictatorship. Whenever these sorts of rumors surface, they deserve close observation.