firstname.lastname@example.org (Sophie Bateman)
North Korea could be about to fall apart as Kim Jong-un has fallen into a coma, according to an ex-presidential aide.
The health of the Supreme Leader of the reclusive nation is in question after Kim vanished for months – sparking speculation he had died and was suffering from coronavirus or was in a vegetative state.
He seemed to resurface a few months ago and has made a number of sporadic public appearances since.
However there’s renewed interest in Kim’s health after reports he has given some of his power away to his sister Kim Yo-jung.
The National Intelligence Service in South Korea says the decision was made to “relieve stress from Kim’s reign and avert culpability in the event of policy failure”.
“Chairman Kim Jong-un is still maintaining his absolute authority, but some of it has been handed over little by little,” the agency said.
“Although Chairman Kim still exerts absolute power, he has gradually transferred his authority compared to the past, and it is not the decision of the successor or the rule of the successor.”
Now a former aide to neighbouring South Korea’s late president has claimed the restructuring took place because Kim is indeed in a coma.
Chang Song-min, who served as political affairs secretary to Kim Dae-jung, said he received this information from a source in China.
“I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended,” he told South Korean media.
“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.”
He said the dictator would never have passed on authority to another person unless he was too ill to rule or had been ousted in some kind of coup.
Chang also claims the photos released by North Korean state media of Kim attending events were faked and the leader has been too sick to perform basic duties for months.
Kim has skipped a number of important ceremonies this year and the flattering photos of him which usually appear daily in the country’s newspapers have been notably absent since April.
In May he seemed to quash rumours of his death or ill health by showing up at a fertiliser plant before immediately vanishing again.
In early July he resurfaced to head a politburo meeting on the state’s protection measures against Covid-19.