South Korea is confident that “there is nothing unusual” about the situation in North Korea, following reports that its leader Kim Jong-un is dead or gravely ill, a senior South Korean official said Sunday.
“Our government has enough information-gathering capabilities to say confidently that there is nothing unusual” about Kim’s status, Kim Yeon-chul, South Korea’s unification minister, said on Sunday, adding that the circulation of rumors amounted to an “infodemic.”
South Korea has continuously denied reports that Kim is seriously ill, with President Moon Jae-in’s spokesman saying earlier this month that South Korea “has so far detected no special signs inside North Korea,” after Daily NK, a South-Korean online newspaper, reported that Kim had undergone a cardiovascular procedure on April 12. Kim Jong-un was last seen publicly on April 11, with speculation growing after he was absent from state celebrations for North Korea’s biggest holiday, the April 15 birthday of Kim’s paternal grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the founder of the country.
Last week, CNN cited U.S. officials who said Kim is in “grave danger” after a botched surgery, but President Trump then slammed the story, saying Thursday that “it was a fake report done by CNN.” On Wednesday, General John Hyten — the vice chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff — said he did not doubt that Kim was “still in full control of the Korean nuclear force and the Korean military forces.”
“I want to emphasize that when officials say such things, they don’t do it idly,” Kim said Sunday, referencing Hyten’s comments. “They say them based on assessment of information.”