Speculation over the condition of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been growing ever since he missed the 108th birthday celebration of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15. Reports on the status of Kim’s health have been all over the map. South Korean officials claim that the leader of the hermit country is “alive and well” while others such as Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai have alleged he’s in a “vegetative state.”
The conjecture began last Monday, when CNN reported U.S. Intelligence officials were monitoring reports that Kim was “gravely ill” following cardiovascular surgery. Their source was a U.S. intelligence official with “direct knowledge.” CNN had spoken with a second US official who had said the “concerns were credible but the severity is hard to assess.”
Today, in an attempt to “prove” all is well, CNN reported that the Korea Central News Agency, a state media outlet, published a letter, dated April 27, which they claim Kim wrote to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa congratulating him on Freedom Day.
In the letter, Kim “expressed his certainty that the two nations’ friendship would unendingly expand and develop, in addition to referencing Freedom Day.” This letter, of course, proves nothing.
CNN said they have no way to verify that the letter is authentic.
The letter, which may or may not be genuine, was not the country’s first attempt to act as if it’s business as usual. On Sunday, North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun reported that Kim “sent thanks to workers who helped in remodeling the city of Samjiyon in North Korea.”
On Sunday, an advisor to South Korean President Moon Jae-in told CNN, he has been in Wonsan since April 13 and said, “No suspicious movements have so far been detected.” Then a report on Monday said that satellite photos have spotted a train, “probably belonging to Kim Jong Un,” which has been parked at a railway station near his coastal compound in Wonsan since April 21.
On Monday, Fox News spoke to China expert Gordon Chang, who believes that “something is wrong” in North Korea. “I don’t think the South Korean government is right when they say he is alive and well. He very well may be alive, but the ‘well’ part of it is, I think, subject to question largely because this regime acts in patterns and when these patterns are broken, we know that something has occurred.”
Chang said, “We can conclude that something is wrong. We know that he did not show up for the April 15 Day of the Sun celebration that commemorates the birth of regime founder Kim Il Sung, his grandfather, and Kim has not missed any Day of the Sun celebrations. He was a no-show on Saturday for celebrations to mark the founding of the Korean People’s Army.”
He added, “This is a pattern which is broken, which means something really is wrong.”
Citing a report he’d heard recently, Chang said it’s possible Kim may have been wounded during a series of missile tests on April 14. “One of the things that’s important about this is that that missile test, which in fact did occur, could not have gone forward if Kim did not authorize it. Kim has been on site for virtually every missile test in North Korea during his reign.”
He noted that photos of Kim are released following every missile test, but “no photos were released of the last test.” He told Fox, “That’s an indication that something happened on April 14.”
The stories of what exactly may have happened to the portly North Korean leader have varied widely.
Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai reported on Saturday that earlier in April, Kim was visiting a rural area when he clutched his chest and collapsed suddenly. After being rushed to a hospital, it was determined that Kim needed a stent. This is a routine procedure, however, the magazine’s source said, “the surgeon was not used to dealing with patients with obesity and was too nervous during the operation, resulting in a delay which left Kim Jong Un in a “vegetative state.”
Earlier on Saturday, Reuters reported that Beijing had sent a group of Chinese medical experts to Pyongyang to consult with his doctors. “According to the agency citing three sources with knowledge on the matter, the team took off to the hermit state on Thursday.”
So, we’re getting very mixed messages from all sources about Kim’s condition. Due to the secretiveness of the nation, we are forced to keep reading the tea leaves. But the state media’s attempt to present “evidence” of his wellness that is feeble at best, puts me in the Gordon Chang camp. I think something is amiss in North Korea.