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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 23)

All News 06:50 April 23, 2020

Kim Jong-un's health
Unusual things happening in North cannot be taken lightly

Rumors are rampant about North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's health after CNN first reported, Tuesday, that the U.S. was looking into intelligence that he is "gravely ill" after surgery.

Government officials in China, South Korea as well as the United States have cast doubt on the credibility of the reports, but it is also true that there are enough reasons to believe that something unusual is happening concerning him.

If Kim is indeed in a serious condition, we are certainly in the state of a national emergency. Fortunately, the South Korean military said it has not detected any unusual activities by the North Korean military, and hasn't raised its alert level. Even if the reports are false, they are at least a good reminder that anything can happen in North Korea at any time. What is important is that we should be fully prepared for any contingencies in the North, maintaining a strong military readiness and security posture. There should also be a thorough check to ensure that our response system is working properly.

In fact, there had been unusual signs pointing to possible health problem with the obese North Korean leader. He reportedly skipped an annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on the occasion of the 108th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather and North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, April 15. Last week, the North's rubber-stamp parliament delayed a crucial meeting for two days without providing any tangible reason for this, and then the meeting went ahead anyway without Kim's participation. There were also no state media reports of him attending his country's latest weapons tests last week.

These are enough to raise speculation about what is going on in North Korea. In addition, Kim's younger sister Kim Yo-jong, who serves as the first vice department director of the Workers' Party Central Committee, has issued the North's official statements and messages to South Korea and the U.S. since last month. On Wednesday, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun, quoting an unnamed source, reported that North Korea has been preparing a contingency plan centered on transferring power from Kim to the sister since late last year. The report said the Workers' Party has made an internal decision that the sister would succeed her brother in the case of Kim's absence due to unforeseen circumstances or his death.

Amid the mystery about the dictator's health, U.S. President Donald Trump said he didn't know anything about Kim's condition, but wished him well during a White House press briefing.

The government here said it has heard nothing unusual about Kim Jong-un. North Korea has remained silent about all the speculative media reports, but in a way this only suggests something bad may have occurred. Nothing is certain for now, but one thing for sure is that rumors will continue about the heavy-smoking, overweight leader's health until he dies.

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