North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his family reportedly received an experimental coronavirus vaccine dose from the Chinese government, a US analyst said on Tuesday citing two unidentified sources from the Japanese intelligence. The news came to light after the two Japanese intelligence sources discussed the matter with a Washington DC-based Korea expert.
Harry Kazianis, a North Korea expert at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said the Kim and his family along with several senior North Korean officials were vaccinated recently. The news comes amid growing concerns over Kim's health, which has often been subject of rumors during his nine-year rule as the Hermit Kingdom's premier.
A Vaccine for Kim and Family
Kazianis said that the Kims and multiple other high-ranking officials within the Kim family and leadership network have been vaccinated for coronavirus "within the last two to three weeks thanks to a vaccine candidate supplied by the Chinese government." However, it's still unclear which Chinese company provided its Covid-19 vaccine candidate, or if it was proven to be safe.
Chinese government officials claim that they are working on phase three trials for a vaccine, the last step for final approval, for at least five vaccine candidates. Among these, three are reportedly Sinovac Biotech Ltd, CanSinoBio and Sinophram Group. One experimental vaccine candidate from Sinopharm was reportedly also administered to nearly a million people, none of whom reported "serious adverse" reactions, according to an article by the company that did the rounds on social media.
It is still not known how Kim reacted after taking the vaccine. Also no details of his health have been known since quite some time.
The North Korean Covid Mystery
Kim's health has often been a subject of scrutiny given that he often disappears from public life. This has time and again given birth to rumors that he might soon hand over the administrative charges to his sister. The 36-year-old is a chain smoker obese and suffers from several ailments. In fact, his brief absence from public view earlier this year prompted speculation that he received heart surgery or contracted the coronavirus.
Kim's deteriorating health has also made some experts doubt if he would at all use an experimental vaccine. Moreover, North Korea hasn't disclosed anything related to the coronavirus in that country till now.
In fact, North Korea officially has not reported any coronavirus infections but experts outside the country have been skeptical of that claim given that the country shares a border with China, the original source of the outbreak. Also, Kim reportedly has recently ordered to beef up security at its borders to defend against the pandemic.
However, the news of no coronavirus cases in North Korea may not be all true. In November, Microsoft said that two North Korean hacking groups had tried to break into the network of vaccine developers in multiple countries, which raises suspicion that Kim's administration is probably trying to get access to a Covid-19 vaccine to treat its own people.