Despite widespread reports that he has either died or is in failing health, U.S. Intelligence agencies are backing reports from South Korea that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is "alive and well." Speaking with the Washington Post, three government officials familiar with the matter said that both U.S. and South Korean officials are skeptical of the recent reports.
Acknowledging that the North Korean leader's health is "among the North's most closely guarded secrets," one official claimed that neither the United States nor South Korea has any evidence supporting reports that Kim is either dead or gravely ill. A second South Korean official claimed that "we understand that Chairman Kim Jong-un has been in Wonsan this week." Those comments came after 38 North, a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, reviewed satellite images showing a train believed to be Kim’s at his compound in Wonsan, where it has been parked for several days.
"The train's presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast," the 38 North report said.0comments
Speculation over the North Korean leader's health began after he failed to make an appearance during the April 15 celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, North Korea's founder. He has not made a public appearance since April 11, according to The Guardian. Shortly after his noted absence, Daily NK, a Seoul-based online media outlet that employs North Korean defectors, alleged that Kim had recently undergone a "cardiovascular procedure," citing sources that claimed the leader required treatment due to heavy smoking, obesity and fatigue. CNN then reported that Washington was "monitoring intelligence" that Kim was in "grave danger" following the procedure.
While a number of officials have noted that Kim's absence from the state holiday on April 15 was "unusual," it does not necessarily signify anything regarding his health, as Kim has gone long periods in the past without making an appearance. In 2014, rumors regarding his health circulated after he disappeared and reappeared five weeks later. The Washington Post also reports that the leader had a three-week-long absence between a Lunar New Year concert on Jan. 25 and a February event to mark his father’s birthday. He was then absent for another 13 days before making another appearance.