Kim’s absence keeps rumour mill churning about his health

North Korea’s state media reported on leader Kim Jong-un expressing his “appreciation” for people working to build facilities in a northern border town on Sunday, but continued to remain quiet about his public activities for two weeks amid growing speculation about his health. “Comrade Kim Jong-un sent appreciation to workers earnestly and wholeheartedly supporting in furnishing Samjiyon,” South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency quoted Pyongyang state radio as saying in a report on Sunday. Samjiyon is located at the foot of Mount Paekdu, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, known to be the birthplace of Kim’s late father and former leader Kim Jong-il.

The report, which did not say anything about Kim’s whereabouts or health conditions, has done little to stop the rumour mill churning about his health and the fate of the nuclear state. After all, North Korea has neither reported a public appearance by its leader for two weeks, nor has it responded to lurid claims about his health. Other state media, including the Korean Central News Agency and the Rodong Sinmun, did not report on his public activities either, nor did they provide any photos of the leader. Kim Jong-un has been out of public view since he was last seen on April 11 chairing a major party meeting, reports Yonhap News Agency.

He skipped an important annual trip to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on the occasion of the April 15 birthday of the late state founder and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, sparking rumours over what was behind his unprecedented no-show at the mausoleum. Last week, CNN intensified speculation about his health by reporting earlier this week that the US was looking into intelligence that Kim is “in grave danger” after surgery. Another reports suggested that he had become “brain dead” or was in a “vegetative state” after a heart-valve surgery gone wrong at the hands of a nervous North Korean surgeon. Yet another said Kim was grounded with Covid-19. Seoul and Washington officials have disputed these reports. It is not rare for Kim to disappear from the public view but whenever it happens, rumours spread about his health, with most of the cases having proved to be false. He re-emerged after about a three-week absence by visiting the mausoleum to mark his late father’s birthday on February 15.

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