What happens in North Korea, stays in North Korea — that's the idea world holds about the country. But recently concerns about its leader Kim Jong Un's health have again hit headlines, third time this year.
Joseph Siracusa, a political analyst and professor in the School of Global Studies at RMIT University, Australia said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "doesn't look well in the pictures that we see."
The supreme leader of DPRK recently called an emergency meeting after the country reported its first possible case of novel Coronavirus while prompting the lockdown of one of the North Korean cities. While talking about the Coronavirus crisis, Siracusa told Sky News, "I think the COVID thing is far more serious in North Korea than we know of."
North Korea: Coronavirus and Kim Jong Un
This year, several times Kim Jong Un's name appeared on social media with fake pictures of his dead body and claims that North Korea was preparing for his funeral. All these claims later turned out to be false but many still believe that his health condition is not good.
As the media organizations of North Korea never publicizes any information about the Kim dynasty, it is difficult to confirm Siracusa's claims about Kim Jong Un's heath. During the interview, the analyst also did not reveal details about the photos that he was referring to.
In June, the Defence Minister of Japan, Taro Kono expressed his 'suspicion' about the North Korean leader's health to be refuted by Russia's ambassador to Pyongyang Alexander Matsegora, who said any speculation surrounding the North Korean leader's health would remain "empty rumors."
But it cannot be overlooked how the state-run media hides the truth often. Jean H Lee, Director of Korea Program, Wilson Centre, and former AP Pyongyang Bureau chief earlier explained one such incident.
Lee said in 2008 when Pyongyang residents were expecting to see then-leader Kim Jong-il at the major military parade to celebrate the country's founding, he was not there. "We finally got intel sources in Washington DC to confirm that they believed that Kim Jong-il has suffered a stroke several weeks earlier in August and was in a coma," added Lee.
However, in terms of COVID-19 situation in North Korea, the Kim Jong Un regime continues to claim that the country is coronavirus-free. A few days ago, it was reported that Pyongyang declared the highest level of national emergency when a defector, Kim Geum Hyok, who escaped to South Korea in 2017, returned.
It was not clear whether he is North Korea's Coronavirus patient zero or not, but the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said the defector's contacts were put in quarantine and a lockdown was imposed in Kaesong City, where Hyok re-entered.