North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's health has been at the center of media speculation around the world and there has been no clear answer from his own government. Pyongyang is notorious for keeping information secret to the outside world, and its own media is not reporting on Kim's health. Rumors of his death sprouted after he allegedly had a botched surgery earlier this week.
Late Saturday, U.K. journalist Charlie Proctor began sharing clips from a feed of North Korean's state television network. Proctor's clips were mostly a test screen, with upbeat music being played in the background. The morning newscast began as normal, with a brief introduction form an anchor. The next clip appeared to show old clips from military parades and gatherings. Kim eventually made an appearance through archived footage of him riding a horse.
Other North Korean outlets avoided the subject of Kim's reported surgery, reports Al Jazeera. The main headlines for the Korean Central News Agency on Wednesday featured stories about sports equipment, mulberry picking and a Bangladesh meeting studying North Korea's self-reliance ideology. The Rodong Sinmun newspaper included articles about the country's economy and what the government is doing to fight the coronavirus. Kim's location was not reported.
Kim, 36, has not been seen in North Korean state media since April 11, when he attended a meeting of the Politburo for the leading Workers' Party. On April 15, he missed an event at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to mark his grandfather's birthday. This sparked questions about his health from outside observers and on Monday, South Korea-based Daily NK reported Kim had heart surgery on April 12. There were reports that the surgery did not go well, leaving Kim in at least a vegetative state. Some outlets reported he was deceased, although that has not been independently verified.
On Monday, U.S. officials told CNN they were keeping a close eye on report about Kim's health. A U.S. defense official said the U.S. military has not uncovered evidence he is incapacitated. On Friday, a South Korean source told Reuters their intelligence shows Kim is still alive and could make an appearance soon. Another official familiar with U.S. intelligence said they have seen "no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public," despite Kim's known health problems.
Three sources told Reuters China sent a group of doctors and officials to "advise" on Kim's health. The delegation left Beijing on Thursday and is led by a member of the Chinese Community Party's International Liaison Department, which handles China's relationship with North Korea. Reuters said it could not "immediately determine" what the trip meant for Kim's health.
UPDATE: The music has become less upbeat.April 25, 2020