Controversies over ‘health state’ of North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un

North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un is in “a vegetative state” in a coma following a botched heart operation, according to disputed reports on Saturday.

The unverified claims – which follow online rumours of his death – emerged as a team of Chinese medical experts reportedly flew in to treat the North Korean despot, who has not been seen in public for two weeks.

Speculation about Kim’s failing health began after he failed to appear at an important celebration to mark the birthday of Kim Il-Sung, his grandfather and the founder of the country.

He had last been spotted four days before that at a meeting with government officials.

Reports from South Korea suggested that Kim – who is overweight and has a history of diet-related illness – underwent heart surgery on April 12 and was seriously ill.

The country’s intelligence services detected “nothing to confirm” the rumours, officials said, and ally China also denied he was gravely ill.

But today Japanese newspaper Shukan Gendai said Kim had been left in a vegetative state by the bungled operation.


Unconfirmed reports claimed Kim was taken to hospital after clutching his chest and falling to the ground while out in the countryside.

He had a procedure to insert a stent but it went wrong because the terrified surgeon’s hands were shaking, it was claimed.

It comes after Shijian Xingzou, vice director of Beijing-backed broadcaster Hong Kong Satellite Television, fuelled online rumours the tyrant was already dead.

She said on Chinese social media site Weibo that a “very solid source” had told her that Kim had died but did not give any further details.

Reports yesterday suggested he had been staying at an exclusive private villa on the country’s east coast after a number of people around him tested positive for coronavirus.

On Thursday, China, one of North Korea’s few allies globally, dispatched a specialist medical team to help in the leader’s care, Reuters reported, citing three people familiar with the situation.

The delegation is thought to have been led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, an agency charged with conducting relations with and influencing states and groups outside China.

The uncertainty around Kim’s health has sparked discussion of what his death could mean for North Korean, with many citing his sister as a possible successor.

Experts have also warned that the power vacuum left could result in an ugly civil war involving rival military units within the North Korean army.

Speaking to Reuters yesterday, a South Korean government source reiterated that their intelligence was that Kim was still alive and should be making an appearance soon.

An official familiar with US intelligence said that Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public.

President Trump, who met Kim in 2018, also sought to downplay reports of his poor health.

“I think the report was incorrect,” he told reporters, though he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.

The episode is not the first time Kim has vanished from public view.

In 2014, he was not seen for a month, and when he reappeared was walking with the help of a cane.

Questions about his health have been fuelled by his weight gain, his heavy smoking, and a history of cardiovascular problems in his family.

His love of Swiss cheese and French wine is said to have left him plagued with gout.

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