Moon’s special adviser on national security, Moon Chung-in, said on Sunday that the North’s leader was in good health, days after Kim missed a key event, raising speculation about his death and replacement by his sister.
“Kim Jong-un is alive and well,” Moon said in an interview with CNN.
On Saturday, the US-based monitoring project 38 North said in a report that satellite images showed a special train probably belonging to Kim parked at a coastal resort town in the east of the country.
It said the 250-meter-long train had been spotted at the “leadership station” in the Wonsan resort area on April 21 and 23, adding that the station was specifically reserved for the use of the Kim family.
The South Korean national security adviser said that it had been a fortnight since Kim had arrived at the Wonsan resort and “no suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
Kim has not made a public appearance since April 11. Speculation about his death emerged especially after his absence from the April 15 celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather and North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung.
Since then, a series of unconfirmed media reports about his condition have emerged.
Daily NK, an online media outlet run by North Korean defectors, reported that Kim had undergone a cardiovascular surgery. The outlet cited an unidentified source inside North Korea as saying that the 36-year-old Kim had needed surgery due to obesity and heavy smoking.
Soon after that report, CNN cited an unnamed source as saying that Washington was monitoring the reports about Kim’s health, who was said to be in grave danger after an earlier surgery.
South Korean media also reported last week that Kim might have undergone cardiovascular surgery or was in isolation to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus.
Separately on Sunday, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with the North, cautioned about such reports. He said Seoul had the intelligence capabilities to say with confidence that there was no indication of anything unusual going on in North Korea.
Minister Kim also dismissed reports of a cardiovascular surgery on the grounds that North Korea allegedly did not have the capabilities to conduct such an operation.
This is while Reuters reported on Friday that China had dispatched a team of medical experts to North Korea to advise on Kim.
Nevertheless, yet another South Korean official, Yoon Sang-hyun, who is the chairman of the foreign and unification committee in South Korea’s National Assembly, again cited Kim’s absence from the public eye to insinuate that he was “either sick or being isolated.”
North Korea has not officially reported any cases of infection with the new coronavirus.