Having been away from public eye for 20 days, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un reappeared on Saturday, May 2. In his absence, a whole range of rumours surfaced over Kim's alleged ill-health and even his possible demise. These rumors were fuelled and bolstered by reports in some of the world's most followed media houses.
Although the re-emergence of the North Korean leader has put to rest several of such rumors, South Korea's presidential office further refuted claims that Kim had undergone any surgery, even a relatively moderate one.
Kim Jong Un didn't undergo any surgery: Cheong Wa Dae
On Sunday, a senior official at South Korea's presidential office denied reports that Kim had undergone any medical procedure. "There were media reports speculating about Chairman Kim's surgery, citing a change in the way he walks", Cheong Wa Dae told reporters, adding that the presidential office judges these not to be true.
On being asked if Kim hadn't undergone even a moderate medical procedure, the official replied in the affirmative, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported. However, the official refused to state on what grounds such a judgement was made.
Throughout the course of time, when such rumors were doing the rounds, the South downplayed them. At a parliamentary meeting, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul called such reports "fake news" and an "infodemic".
However, two North Korean defectors-turned South's lawmakers, did make outlandish claims on Kim's health. Thae Yong-ho, a North Korean defector-turned-lawmaker told CNN last week that "one thing is quite clear...he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly". Another lawmaker Ji Seong-ho had claimed that he was "99 percent sure" of Kim's death.
Kim Jong Un's disappearance, rumours and re-emergence
After taking part at a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party on pril 11, Kim was absent from the public eye, including on the birth anniversary of his grandfather and the founder of the North, Kim Il-Sung, on April 15. His absence from such an important political event fanned rumours about his alleged ill health.
Daily NK first reported on April 21 that the North Korean leader had undergone a cardiovascular surgery. This was followed by a CNN report that Kim was in 'grave danger', following the procedure. A slew of reports, including that of his death, soon followed.
But Kim's appearance on May 2 at a fertilizer plant at Sunchon, north of capital Pyongyang, quashed all such rumors.
Kim Jong Un sends gratitude to state propagandists
The North Korean leader expressed gratitude to state propagandists, Yonhap News Agency cited the North Korean media. "Comrade Kim Jong-un sent gratitude to exemplary instructors for carrying out their responsibility and role as basic propagandists, which have led workers to implement the party's policies", Rodong Sinmun, the official newspaper of the ruling Workers' Party, said. The newspaper said that the the instructors are full of passion to live up to the leader's expectations by continuing to "ideologically" encourage workers to continue their "frontal breakthrough" and move forward.
Rodong Sinmun released pictures of Kim's appearance at the fertilizer factory, on May 2. He was pictured cutting the ribbon and with his officials, with a smile on his face. When rumours about the leader's ill health were doing the rounds, the country's state media remained silent and only reported its leader's routine schedules, which included sending letters to Syrian and South African presidents.