The U.S. is monitoring intelligence which indicates that the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has faltered. But South Korea has thrown cold water on reports that the dictator is “in grave danger after surgery,” with the president’s office saying it had “detected no special signs inside North Korea” so far.
It would not be the first time North Korea has been misread. The highly-secretive country is by design difficult to penetrate — for outsiders and its own citizens alike. The government purposefully obscures its activities, publishing disinformation and famously risible propaganda. And it has become even more difficult to sniff out the truth since North Korea sealed its borders in late January due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The current speculation began Monday night, when Daily NK, a Seoul website that monitors North Korea, reported that Kim was recovering from cardiovascular surgery earlier this month. A source from inside the regime reportedly said the North Korean leader had been experiencing cardiovascular difficulty for a few months as a result of obesity and heavy smoking but “worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu.