North Korean (NK) state media on Wednesday made no mention of leader Kim Jong Un’s health or whereabouts, a day after intense international speculation over his health was sparked by media reports he was gravely ill after a cardiovascular procedure.
NK media presented a business as usual image, carrying routine reporting of Kim’s achievements, publishing his older or undated quotes on issues like the economy.
Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
On Wednesday, the main headlines from KCNA included pieces on sports equipment, mulberry picking, and a meeting in Bangladesh to study North Korea’s “juche” or self-reliance ideology.
As usual Kim’s name was plastered all over the newspaper, but there were no reports on his whereabouts.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported late on Monday that Kim, who is believed to be about 36, was hospitalised on April 12, hours before the cardiovascular procedure.
The story’s English version carried a correction on Tuesday to say the report was based on a single unnamed source in North Korea, not multiple as stated earlier.
It said his health had deteriorated since August due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork, and he was now receiving treatment at a villa in the Mount Myohyang resort north of Pyongyang.
NK experts have cautioned that hard facts about Kim’s condition are elusive, but said his unprecedented absence from grandfather’s birthday celebrations signals that something may have gone awry.
Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who rules NK with an iron fist, after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack.
Reporting from inside NK is notoriously difficult, especially on matters concerning its leadership, given tight controls on information. The fact Kim has no clear successor means any instability could present a major international risk.
With no details known about Kim’s young children, analysts said Kim’s sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.