On Saturday, sources such as TMZ and the New York Post reported that it was rumored that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un died at the age of 36. This comes days after it was reported that he was in serious condition following surgery. Prior to the news of his reported death, Reuters reported that China had sent medical experts to North Korea in order to advise on Kim's condition, three people familiar with the situation told the outlet. The news came amidst conflicting reports regarding the exact state of Kim's health.
Reuters reported that a delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea on Thursday. However, it was not immediately clear what their trip meant in regards to Kim's health. The report came shortly after it was reported that Kim was in "grave danger" after surgery, according to sources who spoke to CNN. Rumors swirled about Kim after he was absent from his grandfather's birthday celebration on April 15 (he attended a government event days prior, making his absence that much more noticeable).
At the time, CNN noted that they had reached out to the CIA, National Security Council, and the State Department for comment regarding the report. They also reached out to South Korean officials for comment. The publication noted that it is difficult to get credible information regarding Kim, as North Korea tightly controls any intelligence regarding the leader. As previously mentioned, this report comes days before it was widely reported that Kim had died.
According to the International Business Times, the Vice director of HKSTV Hong Kong Satellite Television told her 15 million followers on Weibo (a social media platform in China) that Kim had reportedly died. She expressed that this claim was backed by a "very solid source." It should be noted that there has not been an official report from either KCNA (the Korean Central News Agency) or state officials regarding Kim's reported passing.
Back in 2014, Kim was missing from public life for some time, which led to speculation regarding the state of his health. It was later reported that by South Korean intelligence that the leader had a cyst removed from his ankle. At the time, John Delury, a North Korea analyst at Yonsei University in Seoul, explained to The Guardian the likely reason why Kim was not seen in public.
"When the leader is somehow physically incapacitated, they can't show him off as they like to," he said. "The regime is incredibly image-conscious. It choreographs everything, especially when it comes to the leader. Kim is a young guy, and you don't want to see a young guy in that condition."