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N. Korea’s Kim Jong Un may be in ‘coma’ after asking sister to take control: Diplomat

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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.

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“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.

A man watches a TV screen showing a news program with a file image of Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)
A man watches a TV screen showing a news program with a file image of Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un, at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. (AP)

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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.