Timeline: Is Kim Jong-un ‘alive and well’ or dead? We are all confused

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North Korean state media on Wednesday released a series of pictures of its leader Kim Jong-un where in he can be seen riding a white horse on a snow covered mountain considered sacred in the country.
*Pages for this article are in chronological order.*

1April 27th

The condition of secretive North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, after a long spell of non-appearance, remained unclear on Sunday, with a set of reports saying that he had passed away after heart trouble or was in an irreversible coma, while another said he was staying at his holiday resort.

Kim has not appeared in public for over two weeks and was absent from a key event on Friday, amid rumours that he had heart trouble.

The UK’s Daily Express cited “multiple sources” from North Korea as well as the East Asian region as claiming the 36-year-old dictator died on Saturday night but noted that
“due to the hyper-secretive nature of the pariah state the exact picture remains unclear tonight”, and that claims are very difficult to verify before an official state announcement, given “the nature of the ultra secret regime in North Korea”.

It quoted a section of media outlets in China and Japan as saying Kim was dead, while other sources said he was on his death bed in a vegetative state with no hope of resuscitation after botched heart surgery.

One announcement, the report said, was by a Hong Kong-backed news channel’s vice director, who claims to be the niece of a Chinese Foreign Minister.

HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television’s Shijian Xingzou said that a “very solid source” has told her Kim was dead.

Other sources, it said, reporting a Chinese medical team had been sent to North Korean capital Pyongyang.

Hours ago a Japanese weekly called Shukan Gendai claimed the North Korea’s dictator was in a vegetative state after complications from heart surgery.

A Chinese doctor – who is believed to have been part of the team sent to treat Kim Jong-Un – was reported as saying a delay in a simple heart procedure had left the leader severely ill.

On the other hand, the Daily Mirror said that Kim was alive.

It quoted a South Korean President’s key aide telling US’ Fox News that the North Korean leader was “alive and well” amid rumours of grave illness, incapacitation or even death.

President Moon Jae-in’s foreign policy advisor Chung-in Moon insisted Kim is staying at his holiday resort on the North Korean coast.

“Our government position is firm…..Kim Jong-un is alive and well.

“He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”

A train was spotted at Kim’s private railway station near his holiday home in the resort, and a report of 38 North, affiliated to the Stimson Center, said: “The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast.”

Korea North Supreme leader Kim Jong-un. (File Photo: IANS)

2May 1st

N.Korean defector ‘99%’ sure that Kim Jong-un has died: Report

A North Korea defector elected as a lawmaker in South Korea on Friday claimed he was “99 per cent” sure that Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un died after surgery amid rising speculation over his health, according to a media report.

Unconfirmed reports about Kim’s ill health have mounted since he has not appeared in public for nearly three weeks.

“I’ve wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery. I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend,” Ji Seong-ho, who earned a proportional representation seat of a minor party in the April 15 elections, told Yonhap News Agency, adding that North Korea may make the related announcement this weekend.

“It is not 100 per cent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 percent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue,” he said.

Ji did not reveal the source of where he got his information and his claim cannot be verified independently, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

The lawmaker-elect said that Kim Yo-jong, sister of the North’s leader, is likely to succeed him, as many experts have already speculated.

South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has reaffirmed that it has not detected any “unusual” signs in North Korea regarding Kim’s health.

Hanoi: This AP photo shows U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un smiling before a summit meeting at the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hanoi on February 27, 2019. (Yonhap/IANS)

3May 3rd

Kim Jong-un appears in public, attends ribbon-cutting ceremony

Kim Jong-un re-emerges after 20 days amid health rumours

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a fertilizer factory completion ceremony, state media reported on Saturday, his first public appearance after 20 days of absence that sparked rumours about his health.

North korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim cut the tape at the ceremony marking the completion of Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on Friday, reports the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency.

Photos released by KCNA showed Kim, dressed in a dark Mao suit, cutting the red ribbon during the ceremony and talking to accompanying officials with a smile on his face.

“All the participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ extending the greatest glory to the Supreme Leader who has brought about a new change in the development of Juche-based fertilizer industry and has led the grand revolutionary advance for strengthening self-supporting economy to a victory with his outstanding leadership,” KCNA said.

Juche is the concept of self-reliance.

“He looked round several places including raw material processing process, yellow phosphorus production process, ammonium phosphatic fertilizer production process, and packing process, being briefed about the production processes of the factory,” KCNA added.

Kim was also quoted as expressing “satisfaction about the wonderful creation” and “set forth the tasks and ways for developing our chemical industry in a correct orientation as required by the new century”.

Accompanying Kim were his sister Kim Yo-jong, Pak Pong-ju, vice chairman of the WKP’s Central Committee, Premier Kim Jae-ryong and other senior officials, according to KCNA. No. 2 leader Choe Ryong-hae was not among the attendees.

This marked Kim’s first public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.

His absence from an annual event marking the April 15 birth anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder, Kim Il-sung, sparked speculation he might be seriously ill, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

In a report last week, CNN had said that the US was looking into intelligence that Kim Jong-un was in “grave danger” after surgery.

That came after a report by Daily NK, a South Korea-based news outlet specializing in North Korea issues, that Kim Jong-un was receiving medical treatment following a cardiovascular procedure.

Fanning the rumours further, North Korean media had not provided no report on photo on his public activity, though it carried articles on his routine day schedules such as sending diplomatic letters or sending gifts to honored citizens.

South Korean officials repeatedly rejected the rumours, saying that no unusual movements have been found in North Korea with regard to his health.

It is not rare for Kim Jong-un to disappear from public view, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The latest absence marked the third time this year alone that he has not appeared in public for more than 10 days.

His longest absence from public view was in September 2014, when he disappeared for about 40 days and returned with a cane and limping.

Seoul’s intelligence agency later said that he had a cyst removed from his ankle.

Kim Jong-un is known to have health problems apparently linked to obesity and heavy smoking. His prolonged absence from public view has often spawned rumours about deterioration in his health.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony of a phosphatic fertiliser factory on Friday, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported on Saturday.

“All the participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ extending the greatest glory to the Supreme Leader who has brought about a new change” in the development of the fertiliser industry, Xinhua reported citing the KCNA.

Kim was joined by his sister Kim Yo Jong as well as other senior officials, it added.

A completion ceremony of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory, which has been built as the production base of fertilizer, was splendidly held on May Day, the international holiday of the working people of the whole world, the report said.

This was the top leader’s first public appearance in state media in more than 20 days.

Trump glad to see Kim Jong-un ‘back and well’

US President Donald Trump said that he was glad to see North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “back and well” following rumours he the latter was gravely ill, the media reported on Sunday.

On Saturday, North Korean posted photos of Kim, ending a 20-day absence from public view that sparked intense speculation about his whereabouts and health, the Soul-based Yonhap News Agency reported.

“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well,” Trump wrote in a retweet on Saturday of what appeared to be a scholar’s tweet embedded with photos of Kim at a May 1 ceremony marking the completion of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang.

Trump declined to comment on Kim’s reappearance on Friday, telling reporters he may have something to say about it at the appropriate time.

He also refused to say whether Kim was still alive but when asked if he will be talking to the North Korean leader on the weekend, he said: “I may.”

Trump had previously claimed he knew what was going on with Kim and dismissed a CNN report alleging that the leader was in “grave danger” as “incorrect”, Yonhap News Agency reported

Trump and Kim have met three times in a bid to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons program in exchange for US concessions.

The negotiations have ground to a halt since their second summit in Vietnam in February 2019 due to differences.

4May 4th

2 N.Korean defectors sorry over remarks on Kim’s health

Two North Korean defectors elected as lawmakers in South Korea on Monday apologized for their remarks over Pyongyang leader Kim Jong-un’s ill health amid public criticism over fake news.

Thae Yong-ho, who won a seat in the recent South Korean parliamentary elections and also a former No. 2 diplomat in North Korea’s Embassy in London, apologized his unconfirmed remarks on Kim’s health, reports Yonhap News Agency.

The North’s leader appeared in public for the first time in 20 days last week, debunking speculation that he might be seriously ill.

Thae earlier said Kim “cannot stand up by himself or walk properly”.

“I apologize to the public (over my remarks) whatever the reason is… As I received many rebukes for the last two days, I’ve been feeling the impact of my words keenly.”

Thae, said he felt a “heavy” responsibility for the impact his remarks could have as a lawmaker.

Also on Monday, Ji Seong-ho, another North Korean defector elected as a lawmaker, apologized for claiming that he was “99 per cent sure” of Kim’s death, Yonhap News Agency reported.

“I deeply apologize to the public. I’ve been thinking about myself in the past few days. I deeply felt the weight of my post,” Ji said in a statement.

Kim’s absence from an annual event marking the April 15 birth anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung had spawned media speculation about his ill health.

But Pyongyang’s state media reported Saturday that he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a fertilizer factory.

5May 8th

Kim congratulates Xi on COVID-19 containment

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has sent a congratulatory message to Chinese President Xi Jinping for successfully containing the novel coronavirus, Pyongyang’s state media reported on Friday.

In a “verbal message”, Kim said that Xi “is seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic and strategically and tactically controlling the overall situation while leading the Chinese party and people”, Efe news quoted Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying in a report.

Kim also wished te President “good health” and expressed conviction that “the Chinese party and people would cement the successes made so far and steadily expand them and thus win a final victory under the wise guidance of Xi Jinping”, KCNA added, without specifying when the message was delivered to Beijing.

Kim has on several occasions praised the efforts of the Chinese government in controlling the pandemic, the real extent of which is unknown in North Korea since Pyongyang completely sealed its borders at the end of January in the face of the spread of the disease in the neighbouring country.

Kim’s latest words of praise for Xi came after he reappeared in a state media report on May 2 following a 21-day absence from the public eye.

During this period, the leader missed several important regime events, including the commemoration of the birth of the country’s founder and Kim’s grandfather Kim Il-sung, on the main national holiday on April 15.

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

The speculation was also fueled by the state media reporting that during his last public event, Kim named his sister as a member of the powerful Workers’ Party of Korea political bureau, a move interpreted by some commentators as a succession plan.

However, South Korean intelligence agencies refuted the speculations and later the North Korean leader’s reappearance ruled out the possibility that he could have undergone any medical procedure of this kind.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said that even a simple cardiovascular procedure would have required four or five weeks of recovery, whereas Kim was absent for three weeks.

6May 9th

Kim sends congratulatory message to Putin

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, Pyongyang’s state news agency reported.

Kim expressed the belief that friendly relations between the two countries would steadily develop and wished that Putin can achieve victory in preventing the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency said in a report.

The message came just days after Kim received a commemorative medal from Putin on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of Russia’s victory in the war, known as the Great Patriotic War, reports Yonhap News Agency.

North Korea and Russia have intensified efforts to strengthen their bilateral ties since Kim and Putin held their first summit in April last year in the far eastern city of Vladivostok.

China’s Xi responds to Kim’s congratulatory message

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Saturday responded to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s congratulatory message for successfully containing the novel coronavirus in the Asian giant, where the disease originated last December.

Xi “sent a verbal message of thanks to Kim Jong-un” in response to Kim’s earlier note, Xinhua news agency reported.

In a “verbal message”, Kim had said that Xi was “seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic and strategically and tactically controlling the overall situation while leading the Chinese party and people”, Efe news quoted North Korean state-run KCNA as saying in a report on Friday.

China’s National Health Commission reported only a single new case Saturday, and no new deaths, bringing the total cases to 82,887, while deaths sat at 4,633, and total recoveries at 78,046 since the outbreak began in Wuhan, Hubei province.

Kim had also wished Xi “good health” and expressed conviction that “the Chinese party and people would cement the successes made so far and steadily expand them and thus win a final victory under the wise guidance of Xi Jinping”, KCNA added, without specifying when the message was delivered to Beijing.

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