North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has heart surgery – report

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has heart surgery – report

Kim Jong-un underwent heart surgery earlier this month and is recovering at his private villa, according to a South Korean report, with US media citing officials as saying the North Korean leader was in “grave danger” after the procedure.

If accurate, the surgery claim, made by the Daily NK website, would explain Kim’s absence from an event to mark the anniversary of the birth of his grandfather – and the country’s founder – Kim Il-sung.

Kim Jong-un underwent the procedure at a hospital in the county of Hyangsan on the country’s east coast on 12 April, according to the Seoul-based Daily NK, which is run mostly by North Korean defectors.

The 36-year-old was continuing to receive treatment at a villa at the Mount Kumgang resort, the website added.

The report cited unnamed sources, and there has been no official comment from North Korean state media. South Korea’s unification ministry, which handles cross-border issues, has declined to comment on the report.

CNN, citing a US official with direct knowledge of the matter, said Washington was monitoring intelligence that Kim was in “grave danger” following the surgery.

But a South Korean official familiar with North Korean affairs played down the CNN report, telling the Yonhap news agency that Kim had made several public appearances recently and that “nothing in particular” indicated that he was in poor health.

The South’s presidential Blue House said it had not observed any unusual movements in the North. Kim’s health had deteriorated in recent months due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork, the Daily NK report said.

“My understanding is that he had been struggling [with cardiovascular problems] since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu,” a source was quoted as saying, referring to the country’s sacred mountain.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has heart surgery – report

State news agency KCNA released photos of Kim riding a large white horse through snowy fields and woods on Mount Paektu, the spiritual homeland of the Kim dynasty, in October last year.

Kim was reportedly admitted to hospital after chairing a meeting of the ruling workers’ party’s politburo on 11 April and has not been seen in public since.

He was absent when Pyongyang fired multiple short-range missiles last week and did not take part in low-key commemorations for Kim Il-sung’s anniversary, a national holiday known as the Day of the Sun, on 15 April.

It is not the first time that Kim’s failure to appear in public has triggered speculation about his health.

In 2014, state media took the rare step of admitting that he was suffering from an “uncomfortable physical condition”, after TV footage showed him with a pronounced limp and he failed to attend an important parliamentary session.

But the report did not address rumours that he was suffering from debilitating attacks of gout.

Some observers speculated that Kim had been limiting his public appearances this month as a precaution against the coronavirus pandemic.

North Korea continues to insist that it has not discovered a single case of Covid-19, but experts and defectors have challenged those claims.

The North has quarantined tens of thousands and delayed the school year as precautionary steps, and sealed its border with China in January. But activist groups in Seoul said they had been told by contacts in that people had died of the virus, although those claims could not be independently verified.

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