Contradictory reports have emerged since CNN reported earlier this week that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could be gravely ill. If one goes by the American media, the Korean leader is in "grave danger", while South Korean press has largely down-played the reports. Interestingly, North Korean media, which closely monitors international news about its leader and calls out critical reports, has largely remained mum.
US President Donald Trump, with whom Kim has had three meetings in the past, has weighed in on the matter. "I hope he's not in medical trouble. I hope he's not. I have gotten along very well with him", Trump said in his daily press briefing on Thursday.
Trump calls out CNN for alleged 'Fake report' on Kim's health
In his daily press briefing on Thursday, Trump was asked about the reports that Kim Jong-un was in medical trouble. "I hope he is not in medical trouble...I get along very well with him. Remember you would have been in a war with North Korea if I didn't get elected president", Trump replied.
Asked if he had more information about his status, Trump replied: "I think the report was incorrect". I think the report was done by a network [CNN], that was incorrect. I'm hearing, they used old documents, but I think it was an incorrect report...I hope it was an incorrect report", Trump added.
When asked if he was in direct contact with the North Koreans, he said, "We have a good relationship with North Korea, as good as you can have", before declining to comment any further.
"CNN is fake news, don't talk to me," Trump said when a channel reporter asked him if he had any contact with Kim.
Reports on Kim Jong-un's health
Reports on Kim Jong-un's health first emerged on Daily NK, on online news portal on North Korea, that gets its information from North Korean defectors and informants. "North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently underwent heart surgery and continues to recuperate from the procedure at a villa outside of Pyongyang", the report stated, which was corrected a few hours later, to state that it was based on a single-source in North Korea, not multiple sources as originally mentioned.
CNN and other American media outlets appear to have taken claims from the Daily NK report. 'North Korean leader is in grave danger, following a surgery', CNN cited US intelligence officials. Katy Tur, an NBC reporter even tweeted that the North Korean leader was "brain dead". "He recently had heart surgery and slipped into coma", Katy tweeted, only to delete it later.
South Korea, which is technically at war with the North, has largely down-played the reports. On Thursday [April 23], the country's Yonhap News Agency cited the President's office in reporting that top security officials have 'confirmed that there's no unusual activity in North Korea in connection with media-driven speculation that leader Kim Jong-un may be seriously ill'.
North Korea, which is totally cut off from outside world, has long been a mystery and a source of curiosity. Due to the lack of information about its leader, journalists and observers depend on the leader's appearances in public events and meetings.
When Kim Jong-un didn't attend the April 15 birth anniversary celebrations of his grandfather and founder of current North Korean republic, Kim II Sung, speculations started arising about the reason behind his absence from the important event.