Kim Jong-un missed the birthday celebrations of his late grandfather, one of the most significant holidays in North Korea, fueling speculation over the leader's health, with some reports claiming that he was dead or is in a vegetative state following a botched cardiac surgery.
A top security adviser to South Korea's President Moon Jae-in has confirmed that the North Korean leader is "alive and well." However, a new report claims Kim skipped the anniversary celebrations and has been missing from the public eye over fears of getting infected with the coronavirus.
Kim Jong-un missing over fears of getting infected
In the latest theory to emerge amid conflicting reports about the 36-year-old's health, a source has revealed to JoongAng Daily, a South Korean newspaper, that Kim refused to attend the April 15 event after one of his personal bodyguards was suspected to have been infected with COVID-19.
The publication claims Kim skipped out "because there was a problem within the Supreme Guard Command in charge of guarding North Korea's top leader." The event would have exposed the dictator, those around him and his other bodyguards to the potentially deadly virus.
This claim echoes the sentiments of another South Korean newspaper, Dong-A Ilbo, which cited an unnamed US official saying that Kim had left Pyongyang for a resort compound in the seaside city of Wonsan to avoid the virus after some of Kim's close aides and high-ranking officials had tested positive for coronavirus.
North Korea lying about coronavirus cases?
Throughout the pandemic, North Korea has insisted that it has zero coronavirus cases across the country, a claim that has been dismissed by the international community. There have also been unverified claims that the first COVID-19 patient was executed and hundreds of soldiers stationed near China, the epicentre of the outbreak, had contracted the virus.
North Korea defector and human rights activist, Yeonmi Park, has also taken to social media to state that Kim is hiding over fears of getting infected by the virus and claims that the pandemic has spread "uncontrollably" throughout North Korea.
"The most cowardly and selfish dictator Kim Jong Un is not dead or even sick according to my source," she wrote on Twitter. "He is hiding out in a fear of getting a Corona virus. Despite lying to the world that there is a zero case of Corona virus, it has been spreading uncontrollably within North Korea."