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(LEAD) No unusual movements detected in N. Korea despite rumors over Kim's health: defense chief

All News 11:53 April 29, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; ADDS comments by defense minister throughout)
By Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, April 29 (Yonhap) -- No unusual movements have been detected in North Korea despite rumors about its leader Kim Jong-un's health, Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo said Wednesday, stressing that Kim's absence from public view is not new.

Kim last appeared publicly in state media on April 11, when he presided over a meeting of the Politburo of the ruling Workers' Party. His weekslong absence, including skipping an annual event marking the birth anniversary of his grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung, has sparked rumors about his health.

"Our intelligence shows that there are no abnormalities, no unusual movements in North Korea," Jeong told lawmakers during a parliamentary committee meeting.

The minister pointed to the Seoul government's repeated assessment that Kim is believed to be handling state affairs normally, saying it was made based on comprehensive intelligence data.

Kim had not appeared in public for as long as 27 days last year, and he had been absent from public view around three times this year alone, according to the minister.

"As a defense minister, I've taken this issue very seriously and checked all the situations, not only military circumstances but others such as the COVID-19 virus," Jeong said, adding that the South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities shared their intelligence on a daily basis.

Sources earlier said the defense ministry, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the intelligence authorities conveyed their assessment that Kim has been running his country normally in an answer to prior questions from some lawmakers of the committee about Kim's health.

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul made the same assessment during a parliamentary meeting Tuesday, saying that North Korean media outlets' reports on the leader's work, such as sending diplomatic letters, suggest that he has been carrying out state affairs in a normal way.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) inspects a pursuit assault plane group under the Air and Anti-Aircraft Division in the western area, in this file photo released April 12, 2020, by the North's official Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

graceoh@yna.co.kr
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