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 while others proclaim him "alive and well."
Now, there's a source claiming that the 36-year-old has been missing from public view because he's either paralyzed or left physically impaired.
Kim Jong Un physically disabled or paralyzed?
The Supreme Leader's disappearance could be attributed to his inability to stand or walk by himself, according to a North Korean defector. Thae Yong-ho told CNN that Kim's 'abnormal' absence from the April 15 event indicates that Kim is suffering from a physical ailment that has left him impaired.
"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," said Thae, a former North Korean diplomat who was elected to the South Korea's parliament earlier this month.
Although Seoul and Washington have downplayed rumours that Kim is gravely ill or dead, Thae added that only the supreme leader's family and closes aides would be aware of the dictator's condition.
North Korea remains silent on Kim's health
Thae's comments follow mounting speculation over Kim's health and whereabouts. Last week, reports poured in that the US was monitoring intelligence that Kim is "in grave danger after a surgery." A South Korean newspaper, Daily NK, also reported that Kim had undergone a cardiac surgery and was receiving treatment.
North Korean media continues to report on Kim's activities but have failed to release any photo or video evidence to meaningfully contradict the rumours circulating about his death.
According to Thae, however, most of the rumours currently circulating are unlikely to be accurate or informed, given the intense secrecy surrounding the North Korean leader. He cited the death of Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, which was kept secret for days and even the North Korean Foreign Minister was not informed until an hour before the official announcement.
Satellite images released to disguise Kim's status
A website known for publishing North Korean affairs recently shared satellite images showing Kim's personal train parked at a train station in the leader's luxurious Wonsan compound.
However, Thae said that the train could be a diversion tactic and that when he was a North Korean diplomat, the government would send his train to different parts of the country to confuse the outside world, knowing fully well that it was being monitored by satellites.
"Kim Jong Un's regime does these kind of activities in order to mislead the world opinion or the American satellite imagery," Thae said.