Weekend at Kim Jong-Un’s

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Jasmeen Rivera, Reporter

North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, allegedly resurfaced Friday after rumors spread that he had died from complications during a heart surgery. According to a state-run news organization, he appeared at a ceremony in the city of Sunchon, where the pictures of an event he attended were later released on Saturday. Before, Mr. Kim was only last seen on April 11th. Speculation had swirled on who would be taking over the country when he had missed the states biggest holiday on April 15th. On that day, the North marks the birthday of Mr. Kim’s grandfather, Kin II-sung, the founder of the country. Rumors had rapidly circulated that Mr. Kim was in “grave danger” and in a “vegetative state” after a botched heart-valve surgery. Some also reported that he had contracted COVID-19 and that doctors were sent from China to save him.

A North Korean state news agency released photos of him smiling and applauding, as he cuts a ribbon at the opening of a new fertilizing factory. The news agency said Mr. Kim “warmly acknowledged the builders and masses raising thunderous cheers.” Although no outside news outlets were allowed to witness the event, another news outlet, North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency, contained similar information on the event. The South Korean government did not comment on the announcement. However, there was some push back from the state regarding Mr. Kims declining health. Kim Yeonchul, the unification minister, called the rumors “fake news” saying that there was no significant evidence to prove that they were true.

However, Tucker Carlson, American conservative journalist, said he witnessed the meeting between President Trump and Mr. Kim, stating that Mr.Kim was in extremely poor health. Carlson said that he was “wheezing” uncontrollably, sounded like a “emphysema” patient, and that his physical state was nowhere near healthy.

Amidst reports, letters and gifts sent from North Korea to other foreign leaders and domestic workers were under Mr. Kims name. However, until Saturday, weeks had gone by without any public appearance from him, nor did the country ever respond to the speculation on his health. Their silence caused rumors to go into overdrive. Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector who, not so long ago, won a seat in South Korean Parliament, stated to reporters that he is “99 percent sure that Mr. Kim had died last weekend.” Danny Russel, vice president of the Asia Society Policy Institute, stated that the rumors and chaos shows that the outside world is unprepared for a potential political crisis caused by something like the sudden, unexpected death of the dictator in a country bristling with dozens of nuclear weapons.”

“We got a glimpse of the danger of loose nukes and worse if the death of Kim Jong-un had unleashed a destabilizing power struggle,” said Russel, by email. Additionally, he said that this also showed that “authoritative information about the North Korean supreme leader’s well-being and whereabouts is very closely guarded, and therefore dramatic rumors about his health and behavior need to be regarded with considerable skepticism.” Mr. Kims sister, Kim Yo-Jong, was favored to succeed him if the rumors turned to be true, although his uncle, Kim Pyong II, was a strong competitor as well.

The report written on Saturday did not reveal any information concerning Mr. Kim’s unexpected disappearance the last few weeks. Nor did it convey anything about why he had missed the important state ceremonies for his grandfathers birthday. A South Korean website who hires North Korean defectors, however, stated that Mr. Kim did indeed have heart surgery. According to the New York Times, “U.S. news reports said that Washington was monitoring intelligence” and indicated that Mr. Kim was in “grave danger.”

However, it wasn’t the first time Mr. Kim had disappeared from the public eye. Neither was it the first time there were speculations concerning his health. There have been rumors about North Korea’s past leaders, including theories about Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, saying he had a stroke in 2008. However, most rumors turned out to be false.

Skeptics continue to ponder whether or not Mr. Kim is actually alive, or if he did finally meet his end on the operating table. Either way, the story is no doubt still developing, and will be updated accordingly.