The South Korean government on Tuesday was looking into US media reports saying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was in fragile condition after surgery.
Officials from South Korea’s Unification Ministry and National Intelligence Service said they couldn’t immediately confirm the report. CNN cited an anonymous US official who said Kim was in “grave danger” after an unspecified surgery.
The Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, said it couldn’t confirm another report by Daily NK, which cited anonymous sources to report that Kim was recovering from heart surgery in the capital Pyongyang and that his condition was improving.
Speculation about Kim’s health was raised after he missed the celebration of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.
Kim’s health has deteriorated in recent months due to heavy smoking, obesity, and overwork, the Daily NK report said.
“My understanding is that he had been struggling (with cardiovascular problems) since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu,” a source was quoted as saying, referring to the country’s sacred mountain.
Kim left for the hospital after presiding over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party’s politburo on April 11, where Kim was publicly last seen, the report said.
Pyongyang fired multiple short-range missiles last week which Seoul officials said were also part of the Kim Il Sung birthday celebration. Such military events would usually be observed by Kim, but there was no KCNA report on the test at all.