There are reports the leader of North Korea is dead with speculation over the health of Kim Jong Un escalating, as he missed a major military parade just yesterday.
Rumors are swirling about Kim Jong-un’s location and health. These North Korea experts showed us how they collect information about his secretive regime.
US Senator Lindsey Graham added to speculation of his death, telling Fox News last night he believes reports on the leader’s health.
He said: ‘Well, it’s a closed society, I don’t know anything directly. But I’d be shocked if he’s not dead or in some incapacitated state because you don’t let rumours like this go forever or go unanswered in a closed society, which is really a cult, not a country, called North Korea.
‘So I pretty well believe he is dead or incapacitated.
‘And I hope the long-suffering North Korean people will get some relief if he is dead, and President Trump’s willing to do business with North Korea in a win-win fashion.
‘So, if this guy is dead, I hope the next person who takes over will work with President Trump to make North Korea a better place for everybody.’
Senator Graham has regularly made comments on the state of North Korea’s regime and is seen as an influential policy adviser to President Trump.
He has praised the President’s handling of the North Korea crisis and decision to hold talks aimed at denuclearising the peninsula.
Graham’s declarations followed the news that Kim Jon-Un had failed to appear for a national holiday – Military Foundation Day – on Saturday.
Despite the suspect absence, a senior Pentagon official said US intelligence had found no sign of unusual military activity in North Korea that would suggest something was awry.
An anonymous source told Newsweek: ‘Regional militarizes in the Western Pacific and Asia, including those of our partner nations, remain at readiness levels consistent with historical norms.
‘We have observed no indications or received any additional information to make a conclusive assessment on the status of North Korean leadership or health of Kim Jong-un.’
The official said the Pentagon continues to monitor the situation very closely, but also remarked speculations surrounding Kim’s health may not be completely unfounded.
Citing the presence of the dictator’s train at his Wonsan compound and his uncharacteristic failure to attend two major national events, the official claimed there is ‘certainly credibility to report that [Kim] is either in a serious health condition or potentially deceased.
The official added: ‘Since he is perceived as a deity in NK, his death would instantly trigger nationwide indications, so there is potential that the government had delayed an announcement in order to have everything in place to maintain security across the country.’
Senator Lindsey Graham has previously commented on North Korea to the US media. He has been cited as a powerful foreign policy adviser to the Trump administration. He said he would be shocked if Kim was not dead
The most recent photos, from April 23, show the North Korean dictator’s train preparing for departure
Chung-in Moon was not the only one to downplay speculation about his death.
US President Donald Trump also downplayed reports Kim was gravely ill on April 23.
‘I think the report was incorrect,’ Trump told reporters, but he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.
‘We have a good relationship with North Korea, I have a good relationship with Kim Jong Un, and I hope he’s okay. And I think it was a fake report,’ he said.
When asked about Kim’s health on Fox News after Trump spoke, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, ‘I don’t have anything I can share with you tonight, but the American people should know we’re watching the situation very keenly.’
On April 24, a South Korean source told Reuters their intelligence was Kim was alive and would likely make an appearance soon.
The person said he did not have any comment on Kim’s current condition or any Chinese involvement.
An official familiar with US intelligence said Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public.
A report by the weekly Shukan Gendai in Japan claimed on April 24 North Korea’s dictator is in a ‘vegetative state’ after having heart surgery earlier in the month.
The outlet cited a Chinese medic who is believed to have been sent as part of the team to treat Kim Jong Un after a delay in a simple heart procedure had left the leader severely ill.
The source cited by the news outlet claimed Jong-un was visiting the countryside when he clutched his chest and fell to the ground.
A doctor with him at the time is said to have performed CPR and accompanied him to a hospital.
However, the reporting of the deaths of previous North Korean leaders has taken time to emerge officially.
Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father, died of a heart attack while travelling by train two days before it was announced publicly.
A special train possibly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was spotted this week at a resort town in the country, according to satellite images reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, amid conflicting reports about Kim’s health and whereabouts
North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.
Each change at the top in North Korea has raised the prospect of a leadership vacuum or collapse of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.
So far, each of the three Kims to rule North Korea has defied expectations, holding on to power with an iron grip. But under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has grown substantially, raising concerns over who would control them.
In the event of any leadership transition, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong is likely to play a central part.
In the past two years, Yo Jong has risen quickly through North Korea’s leadership hierarchy, serving officially as a vice director of the Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee, but also unofficially as her brother’s chief of staff.
Kim Yo Jong, who is believed to be 31, has a firm control of key party functions, setting herself to be the main source of power behind a collective leadership. She has regularly been observed at her brother’s side, leading South Korean Media to dub her the ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’.
‘Kim Yo Jong will be for the time being the main power base with control of the organisation and guidance department, the judiciary and public security,’ said Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded think-tank in Seoul.
Still, relatively little is known of of Kim Yo Jong. The dictator’s younger sibling has routinely kept a low profile, having only made her first public statement last month, in which she mocked South Korea as being a ‘frightening dog barking’, for opposing a live-fire military demonstration.
But sources say Yo Jong’s work behind the scenes suggests she would rule with the same iron-fist as her predecessors, should she be announced leader, temporarily or otherwise.
Along with several other North Korean officials, Kim Yo Jong was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department for ‘severe human rights abuses’ in 2017.
She also incurred a reputation for her aggressive propaganda pushing, regarded a one of the main officials who worked to enact ‘rigid censorship policies and conceals its inhumane and oppressive behavior’.
‘Among the North’s power elite, Kim Yo Jong has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that possibility is more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst said.
Yo Jong first began working in the ruling party in 2007, but in the last few years she has ‘gotten a lot more serious’ about the role she’s playing, government consultant Michael Madden told the New Yorker.
‘When you see footage of her on the receiving lines, she is smiling, a nice friendly young woman, but when she is out of those lines, the smile vanishes and she even looks like Kim Jong Il,’ Madden remarked.
Should she be announced as ruler, Yo Jong would become North Korea’s first female leader since her Grandfather Kim Il-Sung founded the nation in 1948.
North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated, and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister (above) and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over In the event of Kim Jong Un’s death, party Elders Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju would likely find themselves at Yo Jong’s side, helping to weather any leadership storm.
Ryong Hae was announced as North Korea’s nominal head of state last when he rose to become president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, following decades of service within the party for the ruing Kim family.
Choe and Pak Pong Ju, a fellow politburo member and former state premier who oversaw the North’s push to introduce more free-market functions to revive its economy, are likely to be the figureheads leading a collective leadership, analysts say.
Unlikely to emerge as a major presence is Kim Jong Un’s estranged older brother, Kim Jong Chol, who has not been a part of the country’s leadership instead opting for a quite life away from politics playing music.
Though according to North Korea’s former deputy ambassador in London, who has since defected to the South, Jong Chol does maintain ties with his siblings and could play a more public role in any contingency plans.
Kim Jong Un is believed to have three children with Ri Sol Ju, the youngest born in 2017, according to the South’s National Intelligence Service.
The oldest is a 10-year-old son, meaning any of the three would need the assistance of their relatives or political guardians if they were to become a fourth-generation hereditary leader.
Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the country, while Kim Jong Un had just over a year to prepare, due to his father’s sudden death from a heart attack.
Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said: ‘Kim Yo Jong is unlikely to take over the helm but could help build a caretaker regime as a power broker until the kids grow up, and Kim Jong Chol might return to help for a while.’
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019
South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation
This is not the first time Kim has disappeared from the public eye.
In 2014, Kim was not seen for 40 days, before he reemerged appearing to walk with a limp and using a cane, after he reportedly suffered from an ankle problem.
His father, Kim Jong-il, disappeared from view for months in 2008, prompting speculation that he had a stroke. A French doctor later confirmed the reports, and the then leader died three years later.
But North Korea’s ruling elite have vanished from the spotlight before prompting rumors of their death only to re-emerge seemingly unscathed.
In 2015 it was claimed by a North Korean defector that Kim ordered his own aunt to be killed by poison. The aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, re-appeared smiling in January.
While there is no official proof of the dictator’s death, the hashtag #KimJongUndead was trending on twitter on Friday following the report.
A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea.
The sources declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the matter.
The Liaison Department could not be reached by Reuters for comment late on Friday. China’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment late on Friday.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported earlier this week that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12. It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.
South Korean government officials and a Chinese official with the Liaison Department challenged subsequent reports suggesting that Kim was in grave danger after surgery. South Korean officials said they had detected no signs of unusual activity in North Korea.
North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated and secretive countries, and the health of its leaders is treated as a matter of state security. Reuters has not been able to independently confirm any details on Kim’s whereabouts or condition.
North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11. State media did not report that he was in attendance at an event to mark the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, an important anniversary in North Korea.