South Korea continues to play down speculation that North Korean’s Kim Jong Un is gravely ill, with one official suggesting that the leader is probably just trying to avoid coronavirus.
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul also dismissed as “fake news” reports that Kim had undergone a heart procedure and that a team of Chinese doctors had traveled to the country to advise on his health. Rather, the minister said that concerns about COVID-19 are likely what kept Kim out of the spotlight recently.
Buzz on the issue hit a high note after he failed to appear at ceremonies celebrating the April 15 birthday of his grandfather and North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. While the country has taken measures to prevent an outbreak, Kim hiding out to avoid COVID-19 undermines “the state media narrative of how this crisis has been perfectly managed,” says Korea Risk Group CEO Chad O’Carroll. “If he is merely trying to avoid infection, it should theoretically be very easy to release photos or videos of a healthy-looking Kim.”
The state of his health is important due to the potential instability that would be caused by a change of leadership in the event of his death.