Kim Jong Un has been missing from the public eye ever since he presided over a meeting on April 11. Speculation over his ill health first started following his absence at the birth anniversary celebrations of his late grandfather, one of the most significant holidays in North Korea.
Since then, there has been a frenzy of conflicting media reports over his health, with some reports alleging that the leader has passed away, some claiming he's in a vegetative state following a botched cardiac surgery while others proclaim him "alive and well."
Now, there's a new report suggesting that the 36-year-old dictator has died and arrangements for his funeral parade are currently underway in Pyongyang.
Satellite imagery reveals funeral parade arrangements
North Korea is reportedly building large parade structures for what could be funeral procession for the leader, according to satellite imagery obtained by North Korea Pro. The images reveal temporary buildings which are usually erected for military parades being raised in the North Korea capital of Pyongyang sometime after April 18.
An area of empty field used as a military heliport, which has been filled with rows of temporary structures only ahead of military parades in the past, once again appeared covered with blue-roofed structures in an image taken on April 22, designed to mimic the streets of Pyongyang's Kim Il Sung Square.
If the parade structures are any indication, authorities are making arrangements for an upcoming military parade for Kim's funeral similar to the one held for his father, Kim Jong-il, following his demise in 2011.The rows of temporary constructions, likely to accommodate soldiers who will be participating in the event, have been set-up at Pyongyang's Mirim parade training grounds.
Train parked in Kim's compound suggests funeral plans are underway
A senior unnamed Pentagon official told Newsweek that the presence of Kim's personal train parked in his Wonsan compound and the leader's absence from recent events is lending credibility to reports of his death.
The images add fuel to the speculation fire that funeral plans are underway in North Korea and the announcement of his death has been delayed until security measures are in place.
"Since he is perceived as a deity in NK, his death would instantly trigger nationwide indications, so there is potential that the government had delayed an announcement in order to have everything in place to maintain security across the country," the official added.
Roy Calley, an expert on North Korea and the author of Look With Your Eyes and Tell The World, which offers a fascinating insight into North Korean society, echoed the Pentagon official's sentiments.
"I think these rumours are almost certainly true, especially with the arrival of the personal train," Calley told the Daily Express. "Knowing the country the way I do, I'm convinced they would parade him to the world if he was okay. They wouldn't want this speculation."
North Korean media continues to report on Kim's activities but has failed to release any photo or video evidence to meaningfully contradict the rumours circulating about his death.
"The carriage where the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, Kim's father, died is still on public display, so they will obviously be preparing for an announcement," he added. "This might be delayed for quite some time, as the outpouring of grief across the country is like nothing you will see anywhere else."