N Korean leader still missing from public eye amid ongoing speculation

Seoul, Apr 26 (efe-epa).- Two weeks elapsed Sunday since the North Korean leader’s last public appearance amid contradictory versions of his health and reports of no unusual activity in Pyongyang, according to South Korean sources.

Kim Jong-un, believed to be 36 years old, obese, a heavy smoker and with underlying health conditions, according to various sources, has in recent days been the subject of many media reports and rumors that have even gone as far as to suggest he is dead, with little certainty of his actual state of health.

The North Korean dictator’s last appearance in public was on Apr. 11, when he chaired a meeting of the political bureau of the ruling Workers’ Party, which was reported by North Korean media the following day.

Speculations about his health have been fueled by suspicions that he may have undergone surgery recently, with subsequent health complications, amid the lack of information from the hermetic country.

North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, which has been carefully covering the activities of the country’s leader, has been broadcasting messages that were allegedly sent by or received from politicians of other nations.

The state radio also reported Sunday that Kim had sent his congratulations to workers in the city of Samijiyon without any further details and without his voice being heard.

No photograph of Kim has been published for 15 days, whether visiting civilian or military facilities, or supervising ballistic or artillery tests, as he often does, according to official propaganda.

In fact, he was absent from the most recent test, on Apr. 14, when North Korea launched several anti-ship cruise missiles into the waters of the Sea of Japan (known as East Sea in the two Koreas).

He also absent on the Day of the Sun on Apr. 15, an important North Korean holiday, when the birth anniversary of the country’s founder and his grandfather, Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), is celebrated, which only served to further fuel suspicions.

This is not the first time that the health of North Korean leaders has been under speculation, especially given the traditional secrecy surrounding the Kim family.

In 2014, Kim Jong-un – who has gained a lot of weight over the years and bears a family history of coronary problems – was absent from public eye for about 40 days, leading to widespread speculation about his health.

He eventually reappeared with a limp, which South Korean intelligence finally attributed to an ankle operation.

38 North, which provides an analysis of events in and around North Korea, published, in the last few hours, satellite images taken between Apr. 21-23 that show a train probably belonging to Kim parked at a railway station in Wonsan which the website claims is reserved for use by the Kim family.

Speculations around Kim’s health rose further when American news channel CNN reported on Apr. 21 that Kim was gravely ill after a surgery, citing unidentified sources.

However, two days later, South Korean intelligence services said they had not observed any unusual activity in the North.

That same day, United States President Donald Trump dismissed CNN’s report as “fake news.”

“I think the report was done by a network that was incorrect. I’m hearing they used old documents,” he said.

But the speculations have continued to swirl even amid reports by unreliable media and sources, which give him up for dead, such as a Hong Kong news portal, or that say he is in “a vegetative state,” as claimed by a Japanese weekly magazine.

The conjectures don’t stop at the North Korean dictator’s health but even suggest the possibility that North Korea may conduct a new weapons test in the next few hours, according to the South Korean newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo.

If the weapons test does happen, it may be just the occasion for Kim to make an appearance to show that he is alive and thus end a new round of contradictory versions about his health. EFE-EPA

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