Rumors continue to circulate that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is dead or dying. On Monday, North Korean state-run media released a thank you letter from Kim as evidence that he is doing fine.
As CNN reports, the letter is apparently dated April 27, 2020. In it, Kim congratulated South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Freedom Day, which is celebrated in the country on Monday.
The letter expressed confidence that North Korea and South Africa would be able to strengthen their relationship in the future.
As the New York Post reports, on Sunday, North Korea’s state-run newspaper also released a letter to workers at a tourism project in Wonsan, thanking them for their efforts.
“Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has sent his appreciation to the workers who devoted themselves to building the Wonsan-Kalma tourist zone,” Rodong Sinmun reported.
While South Korea has said that Kim is fine, rumors began to swirl after it was reported that the North Korean dictator hadn’t been seen since April 21. He missed the April 15 celebration of the 108th birthday of North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung. The event is the largest annual celebration in the country.
Rumors have included speculation that Kim is in a vegetative state after a failed heart surgery or that he was injured during a recent missile test. Other rumors suggest that he has contracted and is ill with COVID-19.
While North Korea has said that it doesn’t have any cases of the novel coronavirus, a claim that experts say is unlikely, a source in China said that Kim didn’t appear at his late grandfather’s birthday celebration because a guard there was thought to have been infected.
North Korea has maintained that Kim is staying in Wonsan, and the leader’s train has been parked in front of the compound for nearly a week, according to satellite imagery. A source says that Kim is staying there to avoid the virus.
CNN states that it is not able to verify the authenticity of either letter. U.S. President Donald Trump says that he believes the reports of the leader’s demise are fake. Trump recently claimed to have received a letter from Kim, though North Korea says that’s not true and cautioned the president against using their relationship for political gain.
Other U.S. officials say that intelligence suggests the reports of Kim recovering after heart surgery seem credible, but the state of Kim’s health is harder to speculate on.