The updates about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are being keenly tracked across the world. The 36-year-old, who took over the reins in 2011 has skipped several public appearances in the last few months, giving rise to speculation that something is not right.
A journalist, who has extensively travelled in the Hermit Kingdom, has claims that Kim is dead. Roy Calley told some media outlets that there are such levels of secrecy in North Korea that even those living in the country do not know what the reality is.
The journalist said that the major changes being introduced by Kim – like making his sister the de facto second-in-command – point towards something major happening in the country.
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Calley’s comments came amid reports emerging from South Korea that Kim is in coma. “I assess him (Kim Jong Un) to be in a coma, but his life has not ended,” several media outlets quoted a former aide of South Korea’s late president Kim Dae-jung as saying.
Jang also posted on social media, according to local media outlets, that no North Korean leader would entrust any of his authority to another person unless he was too sick to rule or was removed through a coup – pointing towards the transition of power to Kim’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong.
He, however, insisted that the North Korean is still in coma and that Kim Yo Jong is not his successor, according to reports from South Korea.
The last official reports from North Korea stated that Kim Jong Un has issued a dire warning for the country’s economy amid reports that he delegated some power to his sister, including responsibility for relations with the US.
The state media in North Korea reported last week that Kim told a gathering of ruling party leaders that the country “faced unexpected and inevitable challenges in various aspects” and that his development goals had been “seriously delayed”.
The unusually candid assessment came as sanctions, flooding and the coronavirus pandemic pushed the North Korean economy toward what was expected to be its worst contraction in more than two decades.
Hours later, South Korean lawmakers told reporters that the country’s spy agency determined that Kim had delegated responsibility for relations with Seoul and Washington to his younger sister, Kim Yo-jong. While she had taken an increasingly public role in diplomatic matters, such as responding to a letter from US President Donald Trump earlier this year, one lawmaker described a more formal power-sharing arrangement.