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13.29 21 Apr 2020


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South Korea and China have cast doubt on reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in "grave danger" after undergoing heart surgery.

It is difficult to verify reports about the secretive state, as information is tightly controlled.

Daily NK, a website run mostly by North Korean defectors, said that Kim is recovering at a villa in Hyangsan County in North P'yongan province after having surgery on April 12th.

The report said Kim's health had deteriorated recently due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork.

A source was quoted as saying: "My understanding is that he had been struggling (with cardiovascular problems) since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to (the country's sacred mountain) Mount Paektu."

US network CNN reported he was in "grave danger" following the surgical procedure, citing an anonymous US official.

South Korea's Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, earlier said it was investigating the reports.

Two South Korean government officials later rejected the CNN report without commenting on whether Kim had undergone surgery.

A spokesman for the country's president said it had detected no unusual activity in the reclusive state.

"We have no information to confirm regarding rumours about Chairman Kim Jong Un's health issue that have been reported by some media outlets. Also, no unusual developments have been detected inside North Korea," Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok said in the statement.

And an official at the Chinese Communist Party's International Liaison Department, which deals with North Korea, told Reuters a source did not believe Kim was critically ill.

Kim (36) was last seen in public on April 11th at a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party politburo.

But when the country celebrated the birthday of his late grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung four days later, he was absent - raising speculation about his health.

Main image: In this photo provided by the North Korean government, dated April 11th 2020, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang. Picture by: AP/Press Association Images

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