Kim Jong-un has gone missing again since last appearance 12 days ago reigniting rumors over his health
North Korea quashed rumors that the dictator was in a vegetative state or dead after they released photos of him at a red-ribbon event on May 1
Kim Jong-un has not been seen for 12 days since making an appearance on May 1, triggering another around of speculations of his well-being. North Korea quashed rumors that the dictator was in a vegetative state or dead after they released photos of him at a red-ribbon event on May 1, the New York Post reports.
Though US intelligence has not been unable to verify the authenticity of the images, they have had no choice but to only guess that he is “probably” alive and well.
“He seems to be out and cutting ribbons on fertilizer factories,” White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien told reporters on Tuesday. “So, you know, our thinking is he is probably doing well.”
Nonetheless, he admitted that intelligence “can’t say one way or the other” if the recent “open source” photos of Kim were genuine.
“We call it the hermit kingdom,” O’Brien said. “It’s very difficult to get information out of North Korea. They’re not very forthcoming with information, but they did release photos of him being alive and well and we assume that he is.”
Rumors of Kim's deteriorating health or death first surfaced after he disappeared for three weeks and more importantly missed a major national event commemorating the 108th birthday of his grandfather Kim Il Sung.
He supposedly emerged on May 1, but photos from the event sparked wild theories that he may have used a body double for the pictures that are yet to be verified.
Human rights activist Jennifer Zeng was the first to point out the dissimilarities between the two “versions” of Kim, marking the differences in their teeth and ears.
"Is the Kim Jong-un appearing on May 1 the real one?” she asked as she shared a side-by-side comparison of Kim’s “old and new” pictures at different events.
Shortly after Zeng pointed out the difference, several others also shared side-by-side photos of the leader, highlighting the differences between the two "versions."
Former British Member of Parliament Louise Mensch also shared the comparative images on Twitter, writing: "Don’t know, don’t care. See no reason to alter my earlier stance. These aren’t the same man."
However, the comparison photos were mostly brushed aside by those saying they may have been doctored to push the conspiracy idea.
Reports of Kim's ill health or possible death emerged last month after a South Korean outlet, Daily NK, claimed that Kim had undergone a cardiovascular system procedure in Pyongyang on April 12 because of "excessive smoking, obesity and overworking." Days after Kim reappeared after his disappearance, a former Pyongyang diplomat issued an apology for speculating that the dictator was probably so ill he could not stand.
Former deputy ambassador to Britain and one of the defectors, Thae Yong-ho, issued an apology on Monday, May 4, for his claims about Kim's health.
"I am aware that one of the reasons why many of you voted for me as a lawmaker is that I would make an accurate analysis and projections on North Korean issues," he said in a statement.
"I feel the blame and heavy responsibility. Whatever the reasons, I apologize to everyone," he went on. Thae was elected to the South Korea parliament last month, the Guardian reported.