In recent days, state media has reported on letters they say Kim has sent, including one on Monday to South Africa's president. But he has yet to resurface.
CNN, which first reported the possible issues cited a U.S. official who said last week there was intelligence suggesting Kim was, according to the network, “in grave danger.”
Both Kim’s father and grandfather died of heart failure, according to The New York Times. Kim is reportedly a heavy smoker and overweight.
American officials speaking anonymously to CNN and Bloomberg said last week that it seemed Kim’s health had in fact deteriorated after a medical procedure — this after an anonymously sourced report in Daily NK, a South Korea-based website that said it relies on leaks from North Korea.
The site published an article on April 21 citing a North Korea source that Kim had heart surgery on April 12.
Bloomberg’s U.S. sources also said Kim had cardiovascular surgery and had been in critical condition.
North Korea is infamously closed off from other countries and information about its society and government, and about Kim in particular, is difficult to verify.
“Any credible direct reporting having to do with Kim would be highly compartmented intelligence and unlikely to leak to the media,” an anonymous U.S. government source previously told Reuters.
A change in the country’s leadership poses some international risk, given its nuclear capabilities and its lack of transparency.
Kim, an autocrat who succeeded his father and grandfather, was not even officially photographed until 2010 — when he was already an adult. His successor has never been identified, though sister Kim Yo Jong is a senior member of the government.
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