South Korean officials are emphasizing that they have detected no unusual movements in North Korea and are cautioning against reports that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may be ill or is being isolated because of coronavirus concerns, Reuters reported.
At a closed door forum on Sunday, South Korea’s Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with the North, said the government has the intelligence capabilities to say with confidence that there were no indications of anything unusual.
Rumours and speculation over the North Korean leader’s health began after he failed to make a public appearance at a key state holiday on April 15, and has since remained out of sight.
South Korea media last week reported that Kim may have undergone cardiovascular surgery or was in isolation to avoid exposure to the coronavirus.
Unification Minister Kim cast doubt on the report of surgery, arguing that the hospital mentioned did not have the capabilities for such an operation.
Still, Yoon Sang-hyun, chairman of the foreign and unification committee in South Korea’s National Assembly, told a gathering of experts on Monday that Kim Jong Un’s absence from the public eye suggests “he has not been working as normally.”
“There has not been any report showing he’s making policy decisions as usual since April 11, which leads us to assume that he is either sick or being isolated because of coronavirus concerns,” Yoon said.
North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, but some international experts have cast doubt on that claim.
South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in vowed on Monday to step up cooperation to help the North prevent the spread of the coronavirus but made no mention of Kim’s health or whereabouts.
“I will find a path for the most realistic and practical inter-Korean cooperation,” Moon told a meeting with senior aides, marking the second anniversary of his first summit with Kim.