Reports of Kim Jong-un’s grave condition first surfaced on CNN. However, so far South Korea has not been able to confirm the reports citing an anonymous official. Despite the claims, experts have claimed a political upheaval in North Korea is unlikely.
Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and former CIA deputy division chief for North Korea, reportedly claimed rumours had circulated recently about Mr Kim’s health in quotes published by CNN.
The quotes read: “There have been a number of recent rumours about Kim’s health (smoking, heart, and brain).
“If Kim is hospitalised, it would explain why he wasn’t present on the important April 15 celebrations.
“But, over the years, there have been a number of false health rumours about Kim Jong-un, or his father.
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“We’ll have to wait and see.”
The rumours has sparked much speculation of who will take over.
However, analyst Cheong Seong-Chang at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea said an upheaval would be unlikely even if Kim became sidelined by health problems.
Cheong said Kim’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, is already exercising significant influence within the North Korean government.
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The analyst also understands most members of Pyongyang’s leadership share an interest with the Kim family in maintaining the North’s system.
When Kim Jong-un has had medical treatment in the past, it is believed she took over state duties on his behalf, particularly in October 2014.
She was removed from the politburo in April last year, but was reinstated again this month.
This has adding fuel to the speculation that she could take over if her older brother’s condition becomes fatal.
At his last public appearance, Kim Jong-un presided over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on April 11.
There he discussed preventive measures against coronavirus and electing his sister as an alternative member of the bureau.
This has sparked further speculation she may be set to take on more duties.
The siblings are said to have a close relationship as a result of their years studying in isolation together.
The pair studied in Switzerland from 1996 to 2000.
It is believed Kim Yo-jong continued her education at the Kim Il-sung Military University when she returned to North Korea.
She then went on to study computer science at the Kim Il-sung University.
Speculation about Mr Kim’s health was raised after he missed a celebration honouring his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15. He had been seen four days before that at a government meeting.
However, South Korea’s presidential office said in a statement no suspicious activity had been detected in North Korea that may have given backing to the reports.
The situation is an echo of the absence of Mr Kim’s father, former leader Kim Jong Il from a parade celebrating North Korea’s 60th anniversary in 2008, which was consequently followed by rumours that he was in poor health.
It was later revealed he had a stroke, after which his health declined further until his death in 2011.
Information abour Mr Kim’s health cannot be confirmed as factual information about North Korea and its leadership is extremely difficult to obtain.
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