North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is showing signs of life after some press reports had rumored he was dying. Yesterday, the regime’s KCNA news agency revealed that the strong man from Pyongyang responded to a letter from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In recent days, the Damascus leader had congratulated Kim on the 108th anniversary of the birth of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea.
CNN, citing an anonymous source within the United States government, reported on April 20 that Kim was in “serious danger” after a surgical operation. The news first emerged in an article in the Daily NK, according to which the leader of Pyongyang underwent cardiovascular surgery on April 12th.
Kim has not appeared in public since April 11, when he chaired a high-level meeting of the Workers’ Party, which has ruled North Korea since the end of World War II.
The South Korean government has denied that Kim has serious health problems. At first, the Trump administration said it had no information on the matter. Yesterday, however, General John Hyten, deputy chief of the US joint staff, said that Kim is in full control of the armed forces.
Rumors of Kim’s condition arrive in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Amid the skepticism of external observers, Pyongyang continues to argue that there are no cases of contagion in the country. Daily NK, which is based in Seoul and is linked to the South Korean Unification Ministry, writes that a North Korean citizen, who tested positive for Covid-19, is being quarantined in a hospital in the Chinese province of Jilin. On April 20, while trying to cross the border, the man was stopped by Chinese border guards.
Meanwhile, South Korean aid groups have received the go-ahead from the Seoul government to send medical supplies to the North. These are protections (gloves, clothes and masks) to fight lung infection.