The removal of massive portraits of North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung and his successor Kim Jong-il, from the main square of Pyongyang, apparently as part of a major renovation, has once against fueled speculation regarding the death of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
The tyrant who has remained untraceable over the last five weeks, except appearing once during an inauguration ceremony of a fertilizer plant on May 1, has been the subject of speculation related to his massive cardiovascular surgery and death.
Is North Korea Planning to Place Kim Jong Un's Portrait?
A report published by NK News claimed that satellite pictures taken on Monday revealed that the main observation deck, where senior officials watch military parades, had been demolished. The western side of the square was closed off to traffic, it reported. It was in 2012 that the portrait area in the square was altered by adding a portrait of Kim Jong Il, after his death.
The outlet further speculated that the changes at the square appear to be part of plans to host significantly enlarged celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea on October 10.
Suspecting something big, journalist Roy Calley, author of Look With Your Eyes and Tell the World, which includes details of his trips to North Korea, told the Express that he also suspects, the removal of Kim Jong-il's statue along with the portraits.
"The last time that happened was when the place was being renovated following the death of the Dear Leader. The fact that portraits have been removed is very interesting. Kim Jong Un can't have any statues or portraits unless he's dead," he added.
Stating that the square is already huge and requires no changes, Calley added: "The square is huge (think Beijing) so I can't see why they'd be enlarging it. I'm guessing (and only that) they are preparing to add a third statue and portrait, but who knows?"
Kim's Body Double Theory Refuses to Die Down
A report in the Daily NK had claimed that the North Korean authorities had hurriedly arranged for the inauguration of the unfinished fertilizer plant in just two days in order to dispel the rumors related to their leader's health and death. Photographs of a healthy and smiling Kim cutting the red ribbon and interacting with people were splashed by the North Korean state media.
Raising doubts over the authenticity of the photographs released on May 1, Calley said that there was no way of proving when they were shot. "Maybe I'm just being cynical but it does not look right to me. There is no way of telling when this picture was taken. This is just another factory in Pyong Yang and it's a really odd picture to release all of a sudden. There is simply no way to date it and the thing is, in the normal course of events, every day there is a picture released of the Supreme Leader opening something," he said.
The theory of North Korea using Kim's body double at the event gained momentum after netizens pointed out the 36-year-old tyrant's facial, hairline, and dental features when comparing his recent public outing with previous appearances. It was speculated that one of Kim's body doubles was used during the inauguration ceremony as the original one recovered from his ill-health.