S Korean intel says Kim Jong-un did not undergo surgery

Seoul, May 6 (efe-.- South Korea’s spy agency believes that Northern leader Kim Jong-un did not undergo any undergo any heart surgery, refuting media reports and speculations regarding his recent absence from public life for 21 days.

“It is judged that Kim did not receive surgery or a medical procedure related to his heart,” the ruling Democratic Party legislator Kim Byung-kee said after a closed-door briefing with the National Intelligence Service (NIS), according to Yonhap agency.

The briefing with lawmakers was attended by NIS chief Suh Hoon, among others.

North Korean media released images of Kim Jong-un on Saturday for the first time in 21 days, during which the leader was absent from major events including the commemoration of the country’s the main national holiday on on Apr.15.

Given the circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic and the traditional secretiveness of the North Korean government, Kim’s disappearance was accompanied by anonymously sourced stories in foreign media suggesting that he was gravely after undergoing a cardiac surgery or even dead.

NIS officials told the legislators that even a simple cardiovascular procedure would have required four or five weeks of recovery, whereas Kim was absent only for three weeks.

However, the NIS also underlined that Kim has only appeared 17 times in the state media this year, which is unusually low; hence they do not rule out coronavirus as a reason for his absence.

“North Korea has stuck to the stance of no infections but given that there were vibrant human exchanges with China before the border closure in January, we cannot exclude the possibility of the coronavirus outbreak in the North,” said an NIS official.

The spy agency also said that closing borders was economically affecting North Korea.

Data from the customs authorities of China, North Korea’s main trading partner, showed that in March it barely exported food to its impoverished and isolated neighbor.

This could have led to rise in commodity prices and compulsive purchases of certain goods by North Korean citizens. EFE-EPA


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