email@example.com (Michael Moran)
Amid swirling rumours that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is gravely ill and could be in a coma, one expert on the region has claimed that the dictator could already be dead.
Roy Calley, a journalist with a network of contacts in Pyongyang who has written a book on life inside the Hermit Kingdom, claims it could only be a matter of time before an official announcement is made and Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong is confirmed as his successor.
He told the Daily Express : “I honestly believe he’s dead but you just can’t tell with that country.
“I could be in Pyongyang now and be none the wiser.”
This isn’t the first time that there have been concerns over Kim’s health but after weeks of silence, news footage apparently showing the “Dear Leader’s” son very much alive and well silenced speculation.
Mr Calley continued: “The fact that there is so much information /misinformation being released suggests there is something happening.
“With everything else the government is very specific with their statements but never when it comes to the leaders.”
He explained: “It was months before the population heard officially that [previous leader Kim Jong-il] had died and I’m guessing this is what is happening now.
“It will only be clarified and confirmed when his sister takes complete control as far as I see it.”
A few days ago North Korea’s National Intelligence Service announced that while Kim Jong-un would still “exert absolute power” he planned to gradually transfer his authority to Kim Yo-jong “to ease stress”.
Meanwhile, South Korean diplomat Chang Song-min told reporters “I assess [Kim] to be in a coma, but his life has not ended.
“A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period.”
However, conflicting reports say Kim is still alive and issuing direct orders, such as the command to execute six people – including four party officials – for sexual offences.
They had been accused of either selling or buying sex at a public bathhouse popular among influential city residents and executed by a firing squad.