North Korea’s Kim Jong Un hasn’t been seen since April 11, notably missing the country’s most important holiday on April 15 honoring his grandfather, Kim Il Sung.
What we do know is that China dispatched a team of medical experts to North Korea amid conflicting reports that Kim underwent a ‘botched’ cardiovascular surgery. According to the Daily NK, however, Kim has mostly recovered.
Last Monday though, MSNBC’s Katie Tur tweeted “Kim Jong Un is brain dead,” and that both NBC and CNN had confirmed his status. She quickly deleted the tweet “out of an abundance of caution.”
So, with rumors over Kim’s fate swirling, here are the top theories as to what’s going on, according to Bloomberg.
Relax, he’s just fine
“Kim Jong Un is alive and well,” according to Moon Chung-in, special adviser to South Korea’s president. In a Sunday statement to Fox News, Moon said that Kim had been staying in the coastal resort town of Wonsan since April 13.
According to CNN, so who knows, US intelligence suggests that Kim is in “grave danger” following the surgery. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that US officials were told Kim is in critical condition, but could not confirm his status.
While U.S. President Donald Trump said Thursday that he believed the CNN report was “incorrect” and based on “old documents,” rumors about Kim’s deteriorating condition only accelerated on social media. On Saturday, Reuters reported that the Chinese Communist Party’s International Department dispatched a team including medical experts to North Korea on Thursday to advise on Kim. The news service, which cited three people familiar with the situation, said it was unclear what the delegation signaled about Kim’s health. -Bloomberg
According to China’s foreign ministry, the ‘medical team’ was related to coronavirus testing. “That is not the same as a medical team,” said CCP spokesman Geng Shuang in a Monday night interview from Beijing.
Kim is social distancing
Not wanting to catch coronavirus since the 36-year-old is in a higher risk category on account of his obesity, some have suggested that the North Korean leader is simply quarantining amid the COVID-19 crisis, despite the fact that North Korea hasn’t disclosed any cases.
On Monday, Seoul-based JoongAng Daily newspaper reported that Kim is in self-quarantine, citing an unidentified source in China. According to the report, one of Kim’s bodyguards was confirmed to have contracted the virus, which is why China sent 50 or so medical staff.
Of course, this wouldn’t prevent Kim from providing proof-of-life.
Kim was injured during military drills
One rumor circulating is that Kim was injured during military drills in the eastern tourist enclave of Wonsan, where he owns a palatial family compound. According to satellite photos analyzed by 38 North, Kim’s armored train, or one which looks a lot like it, was seen parked at the local railway station last week.
On April 14, the day before the Day of the Sun celebration in Pyongyang, there was a burst of military activity which included cruise missile tests and fighter jet maneuvers, according to a statement by North Korean defector Ri Jong Ho, who currently lives in the US. Bloomberg suggests this is unlikely, and notes that satellite images from April 15 don’t show Kim’s train.
Last but not least, Bloomberg cites South Korean lawmaker Yoon Sang-hyun, who heads a committee on inter-Korean relations, who suggested that Kim devised his disappearance in order to draw attention to the regime.
Yoon speculated that the North Korean leader would have to show up in public in the next couple of weeks to avoid a destabilizing debate about his grip on power and potential successors.
“If he doesn’t, it’s a real big issue,” Yoon told reporters Monday, according to the DongA Daily. “Kim is apparently not running the country as he would normally do now.” -Bloomberg
In 2014, Kim similarly vanished for six weeks, stoking all sorts of rumors ranging from ‘gout’ to ‘overthrown,’ after which he was seen walking with a cane.
Cornelius Rupert T.
Cornelius Rupert T.