North Korea’s Kim Jong Un may be in a comatose state after delegating his sister younger sister to take control of the country, according to local South Korean media reports citing a former diplomat.
Chang Song-min, a former aide to South Korea’s late president Kim Dae-jung, made the claims on Sunday to local South Korean media outlets.
“I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended. A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period,” Chang was quoted as saying by South Korean English newspaper The Korea Herald.
Kim’s last known appearance came three days ago on Thursday when he attended a meeting of North Korea’s Worker Party’s Central Committee in which he acknowledged his plans to improve the country’s dismal economy were not working.
This is not the first time reports of Kim’s health – or rumors of his death – have made international headlines.
Earlier in May, many international reports suggested Kim may be dead after he was absent from public appearances for nearly 20 days. He reemerged on May 2 when he celebrated the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang.
According to the Yonhap news agency, Kim did in fact delegate part of his authority to his close aides and younger sister Kim Yo-jong to oversee state affairs. Yonhap confirmed the delegation of powers via South Korea’s spy agency.
“Currently, Kim Yo-jong, the first vice department director of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, is steering overall state affairs based on the delegation,” South Korea’s National Intelligence Service was quoted as saying.