Seoul calls Kim Jong-un’s delicate health rumors ‘fake news’
Seoul, Apr 28 (efe-epa).- South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, was blunt Tuesday when describing as “fake news” the information indicating that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suffers from serious health problems.
“This can be seen as an infodemic phenomenon. We have intelligence that allows us to confidently say that there are no unusual signs (in the North),” Kim, whose ministry is in charge of inter-Korean relations, said Tuesday during a session of the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs.
North Korean propaganda has been running since Apr. 12 without reporting activity on the ground or publishing current images of Kim Jong-un, who has also been absent from several major events, including those on Apr. 15 (the country’s main national holiday).
In this context, marked in turn by the coronavirus pandemic, and given the traditional opacity of the North Korean regime, different media have published information, always citing anonymous sources, in which it is said that the leader’s health is delicate due to an alleged heart operation.
The first outlet to publish this was the digital newspaper Daily NK (based in Seoul and with extensive contacts in the North), which reported that Kim had been transferred to Hyangsan (110 kilometers northeast of Pyongyang) for heart surgery.
Minister Kim dismissed that information and a subsequent report by the United States channel CNN that said the North Korean marshal could be seriously ill, according to statements collected by the Yonhap agency.
“I know that the CNN news is based on the Daily NK chronicle, which spoke of (the leader) having surgery at Hyangsan Medical Center. That has no sense or logic … Hyangsan Medical Center is like a clinic, a facility unable to perform surgery or a medical procedure,” he said.
The head of the unification ministry declined to disclose Kim’s current location despite satellite imagery locating his train in the eastern coastal city of Wonsan, the place where anonymous sources from the southern government located the North Korean leader last week.
The minister added that Kim’s apparent absence Apr. 15 was to reduce interest in the scale of major events in the country as part of his efforts to combat the coronavirus.
For her part, Southern Chancellor Kang Kyung-wha stressed before the commission the North Korean efforts to combat the pathogen.
“Although he claims to have no coronavirus patients, he is trying to strengthen medical and health capacities,” Kang said, citing reports from North Korean propaganda about the opening of a new hospital in Pyongyang or the increase in the budget for health. EFE-EPA