North Korea

North Korea’s Kim issues warning on virus as speculation over his health swirls

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
North Korea’s Kim issues warning on virus as speculation over his health swirls

This picture taken on July 26, 2020 and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on July 27 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaking at a ceremony to confer "Paektusan" commemorative pistols on leading commanding officers of DPRK armed forces on the occasion of the 67th anniversary of the Korean War ceasefire in Pyongyang. (Photo by STR / KCNA VIA KNS / AFP) / - South Korea OUT / ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS / THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE --- /

Several analysts play down suggestions that Kim's health is deteriorating

North Korean state media on Wednesday, August 26, showed leader Kim Jong Un at a meeting of a top committee issuing warnings about the coronavirus and a looming typhoon, following international speculation over his state of health.

Kim’s comments come amid conjecture over his condition after South Korea’s spy agency said he had delegated some authority to his sister Kim Yo Jong to relieve his “governance stress.”

A former aide to late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung even said on Facebook he thought the North’s leader was in a coma, though with no apparent evidence.

But Kim presided over a meeting Tuesday of a top committee of the ruling Workers’ Party, the official KCNA news agency reported, where he assessed “defects in the state emergency anti-epidemic work for checking the inroads of the malignant virus.”

The impoverished North – whose crumbling health system would struggle to cope with a major virus outbreak – has not confirmed a single case of the disease that has swept the world since first emerging in neighbouring China.

Pictures in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim addressing the meeting, wearing a white suit and in one image apparently smoking a cigarette. 

Kim addressed “some shortcomings” in the preventive efforts and called for stronger measures to eliminate “defects,” KCNA said.

Last month Pyongyang imposed a lockdown on the city of Kaesong, close to the border with the South, claiming a defector who had returned was suspected of carrying the virus. 

The restrictions were lifted earlier this month and the infection was never confirmed.

The meeting also discussed emergency measures to prevent crop damage or casualties from Typhoon Bavi, which is forecast to hit the country this week.

There have been days of heavy rain across parts of North Korea, which is vulnerable to flooding as many mountains and hills have long been stripped of vegetation, allowing water to flow downhill unchecked.

Kim laid out tasks for various departments, saying thoroughly preventing casualties and crop damage was “crucial,” KCNA reported.

Several analysts have played down suggestions that Kim’s health is deteriorating and Seoul’s intelligence agency has a mixed record with its past pronouncements on developments in the North.

Earlier this year Kim was absent from public view for nearly 3 weeks, missing a key celebration in April for the birthday of his grandfather, the North’s founder – the most important day in the country’s political calendar – prompting widespread questions over his condition. –