Following days of speculation about the whereabouts of North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un, which has fuelled reports of his death, South Korea’s minister for North Korean affairs Kim Yeon-chul has claimed that the North Korean dictator isn’t dead, but may be in hiding because he’s fearful about coronavirus.
The Unification Minister, who oversees North Korea engagement, told a parliamentary hearing: “It is true that he had never missed the anniversary for Kim II Sung’s birthday since he took power, but many anniversary events including celebrations and a banquet had been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns.”
The minister said it is not unusual for Kim to vanish for weeks at a time – saying there were at least two instances since mid-January where he was out of sight for nearly 20 days.
“I don’t think that’s particularly unusual given the current (coronavirus) situation,” he said.
North Korea claims it has no confirmed coronavirus cases, but has taken steps to prepare for an outbreak.
North Korea has cancelled some large events, and imposed a border lockdown and quarantine measures in an effort to prevent an outbreak.
If Kim Jong-Un is hiding out due to fears surrounding Covid-19, it would “puncture a hole in the state media narrative of how this crisis has been perfectly managed”, said Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Korea Risk Group, which monitors North Korea.
Kim Jong-un has not been seen since April 11, and missed one of the country’s biggest annual celebrations four days later – an absence which has been described as “unprecedented”.
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