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It has been two weeks since North Korean leader Kim Jong Un disappeared from public view. In that time, Kim has missed two high profile events that he’s nearly always been present for in the past, spurring speculation that he’s either dead or incapacitated.
It all started when NK Daily, a South Korean based publication operated by North Korean defectors, reported earlier this month that Kim was having heart surgery. This, coupled with the leader’s public absence, has resulted in rumors that Kim’s health situation is serious.
South Korea responds
It is rare for high ranking officials in the South to publicly corroborate any reports regarding North Korea’s internal affairs, but in a forum that took place on Sunday, Kim Yeon-chul, South Korea’s unification minister, grappled with the issue of Kim’s health, saying, “Our government has enough information-gathering capabilities to say confidently that there is nothing unusual.”
Trump avoids answering
On April 27, in response to a question relating to the health of the North Korean leader, United States President Trump responded by saying, “I can’t tell you exactly. Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can’t talk about it now. I just wish him well, I’ve had a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un, If I weren’t president you would’ve been in war with Korea … He expected that, that I can tell you.”
Trump added that the public would likely hear about it in the “not too distant future.”
The US president has previously stated that reports regarding Kim’s health are “incorrect” and “fake.”
Former CIA agent responds
Former CIA agent Jung H. Pak told CBS News, “the bottom line is we don’t know if he’s alive or dead and we probably won’t know, and we’ll be living in a period of uncertainty until the regime actually … releases a statement or Kim just shows up. So I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions.”
Pak also added that if she still held her former position she would likely be focusing on the “what ifs.” This mostly relates to who the possible successor to Kim might be, with speculation so far suggesting that the most likely candidate would be Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong (as Kim’s children are believed to be too young).
If Kim really has died, another pressing issue confronting the world would be the fate of the nation’s nuclear program.