99% certain Kim Jong-un is dead and North Korea will announce it this weekend, says defector
A North Korean defector has said he is "99 percent" sure that Kim Jong-un is dead.
According to Ji Seong-ho, who recently became a lawmaker in South Korea, Pyongyang may announce this weekend that the dictator has died and a successor, most likely his sister Kim Yo-jong, has been chosen to take his place, the Daily Mirror reports.
Seong-ho said he was informed that Kim died last weekend after undergoing a cardiovascular operation. This comes amid unverified claims that the North Korean Supremo is in a vegetative state, gravely ill, dead, or recovering after undergoing surgery.
According to the lawmaker, North Korea has delayed confirming its leader's demise and announcing a period of mourning because it is still "grappling with a complicated succession issue."
Kim was last seen in public almost three weeks ago on April 11, when he presided over a Politburo meeting.
It has since been claimed he underwent cardiovascular surgery the next day. And while satellite imagery recently showed Kim's personal train parked at the "leadership station" in the coastal resort of Wonsan for over a week, North Korea observers have cautioned it could be a diversion tactic.
Meanwhile, several reports have suggested that Kim is "alive and well" and is currently isolating at his luxury compound to avoid the coronavirus, especially after people close to him have caught the deadly pathogen.
However, there are also reports indicating that Kim isn't making leadership decisions anymore and that North Korea has stopped trying to silence the rumor mill claiming he is dead or is in poor health. "I've wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery," Seong-ho, who won a proportional representation seat in South Korea's general elections on April 15, told Yonhap News Agency. "I've been informed that Kim died last weekend."
"It is not 100 percent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 percent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue," he added.
According to Seong-ho, the announcement of Kim's passing would come this weekend, and his sister was most likely to succeed him. However, the lawmaker declined to reveal the source of his information.
Having said that, it is really difficult to verify claims about Kim or North Korea's activities considering the country's secrecy and isolation from world affairs.
South Korean leadership has insisted it has not come across any "unusual" signs in North Korea amid speculation about Kim's deteriorating health.
Chiu Kuo-cheng, Taiwan's intelligence chief, told lawmakers in Taipei that the North Korean leader is "sick" and that the country has already drawn up contingency plans should there be a power vacuum situation. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that American intelligence is monitoring the situation closely as reports about his health continue to emerge. He added that there is a real risk of famine in the sequestered state due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Thae Yong-ho, another former North Korean defector who is now a lawmaker in South Korea, recently claimed that Kim has several health issues. "I'm not quite sure whether he really had some surgery or whatever, but one thing is clear... he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly," he told CNN.