SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- Thae Yong-ho, a North Korean defector elected as a lawmaker in South Korea, apologized Monday for his remarks suggesting Kim Jong-un's ill health amid public criticism over fake news about the North.
Criticism has mounted as Thae did not show a responsible attitude regarding his claims, though the North's leader appeared in public for the first time in nearly three weeks last week. Thae earlier said Kim "cannot stand up by himself or walk properly."
"I apologize to the public (over my remarks) whatever the reason is," Thae said in a statement. "As I received many rebukes for the last two days, I've been feeling the impact of my words keenly."
Thae, who won a seat in the recent parliamentary elections, said he felt a "heavy" responsibility for the impact his remarks could have as a lawmaker.
"I will promise to do parliamentary activity in a more prudent and modest manner," he said.
Thae and Ji Seong-ho, another North Korean defector elected as a lawmaker, recently claimed Kim is in poor health. Ji said last week that he was "99 percent sure" of Kim's death.
Kim's absence from an annual event marking the April 15 birth anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung spawned speculation that he might be seriously ill.
Pyongyang's media reported Saturday that he attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a fertilizer factory. It carried photos of Kim talking to officials with a smile.
South Korea's ruling party continued to criticize Thae and Ji for their remarks, with some lawmakers insisting that they should not sit on the parliamentary committees on defense and intelligence that handle sensitive information about North Korea.
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