South Korea plays down reports of Kim Jong Un’s ill health

Linda J. Dodson

SEOUL — South Korea’s presidential office on Tuesday downplayed reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s health is in a serious condition.

“We find no suspicious activities inside North Korea so far,” said Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok. “We have nothing to confirm about a rumor that North Korean Chairman Kim Jong Un has a problem with his health that some media reported.”

Citing an unnamed U.S. official, CNN reported on Monday that Washington is monitoring intelligence that Kim is in grave danger after surgery. CNN said it reached out to the U.S. National Security Council and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence for further confirmation, but they declined to comment.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry declined to comment on Kim’s health. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Tokyo was gathering information in co-operation with the U.S. and other countries.

An unidentified official in the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department told Reuters that Kim is not believed to be in critically ill.

South Korea’s stock market reacted negatively to the initial reports, with the benchmark Kospi down 2% in afternoon trading.

Questions have emerged about Kim’s well-being after he was absent from public view on last Wednesday’s anniversary of the birth of his grandfather and the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on April 12 that Kim presided over a meeting of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea that took place the day before. Since then, Kim’s movements have not been reported by state-run media.

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