Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s Supreme Leader is dead – according to multiple sources coming out of North Korea and the Far East, though due to the hyper-secretive nature of the pariah state the exact picture remains unclear. It was being reported as fact by media outlets in China and Japan that the 36-year-old dictator was dead. Other sources said he was on his death bed in a vegetative state with no hope of resuscitation after botched heart surgery. Because of the nature of the ultra secret regime in North Korea claims of Kim Jong-un’s death are very difficult to verify before an official state announcement.
But a Hong Kong-backed news channel’s vice director, who claims to be the niece of a Chinese foreign minister, made the announcement. Vice director of HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television Shijian Xingzou says that a ‘very solid source’ has told her Kim Jong-un was dead.
Further sources were 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.
It comes after insiders claimed China has sent a team of doctors to North Korea to determine the status of Kim Jong-Un’s health. The Chinese delegation left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday included doctors and CCP officials, according to three people familiar with the situation told Reuters. The nature of China’s delegation was not announced and Beijing has so far refused to comment.
On Monday, speculation spread the North Korean leader was in ill health after undergoing heart surgery on April 12 after unconfirmed reports emerged – which were swiftly denied. South Korean government officials and a Chinese official with the Liaison Department have challenged subsequent reports suggesting that Kim was in grave danger after surgery.
North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated and secretive countries and the health of its leaders is treated as a matter of state security. State media from the hermit state last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11. It did not report that he was in attendance at an event to mark the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, an important anniversary in North Korea.
Kim, 36, has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before. In 2014, he vanished for more than a month and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp. Speculation about his health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.
When Kim Jong un’s father, Kim Jong Il, suffered a stroke in 2008, South Korean media reported at the time that Chinese doctors were involved in his treatment along with French physicians.
Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the first state visit in 14 years by a Chinese leader to North Korea, an impoverished state that depends on Beijing for economic and diplomatic support. China is North Korea’s chief ally and the economic lifeline for a country hard-hit by U.N. sanctions, and has a keen interest in the stability of the country with which it shares a long, porous border.
Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack. He has visited China four times since 2018. He killed and imprisoned millions of opponents and used prisons and forced labour camps in a way not seen since the Nazis. The United Nations has long accused him of “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations where the regime seeks to dominate every aspect of its citizens’ lives and terrorises them from within.”
Claims the leader was dead were further muddied as news agency Reuters filed a story which said: “A special train, possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was spotted this week at a resort town in the country, according to satellite images reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, amid conflicting reports about Kim’s health and whereabouts.
“The monitoring project, 38 North, said in its report on Saturday that the train was parked at the “leadership station” in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23.” The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, the report added. But it 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.”