Kim Jong Un is “alive and well” despite reports that the North Korean leader died following a “botched” heart surgery, a top South Korean official says.
On Saturday, a number of international news outlets claimed that Kim had died after falling into a vegetative state following a heart procedure. The North Korean government has remained tight-lipped, not issuing any statement on the reports, but a top government official from the neighbor to the south is now throwing cold water on reports of Kim’s death.
A top foreign policy advisor to South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that Kim is very much alive.
“Our government position is firm. Kim Jong-un is alive and well,” Chung-in Moon told Fox News, via The Express. “He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
As the report noted, that account seemed to confirm previous reports that a private train used for Kim’s travel was seen at a beach resort town. Citing a number of reports from South Korean media, Australia’s 7 News claimed that Kim had been seen in the city of Wonsan after traveling there aboard his private train.
Kim’s health became a matter of international speculation after he did not attend an April 15 ceremony marking the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather, the country’s founding father. Reports this week from American news outlets claimed that Kim was in “grave” health following a cardiovascular procedure. But those claims quickly came under dispute from other reports and from U.S. President Donald Trump, who told reporters that he believed the reports of dire health were based on older accounts about Kim.
Experts have expressed concern about potential turmoil if Kim were to die, predicting that the event could lead to a humanitarian crisis as refugees flee North Korea for both South Korea and the United States. Some predicted that the country could experience a military struggle for power in the wake of his death. There is no clear or public line of succession after Kim, though some experts have suggested that his sister is in line to lead the country in the case of his death.
There are still no official reports on Kim’s health and there been no confirmation that either he has died or he is “alive and well.” The North Korean leader has not been seen in public for close to two weeks.