On Monday night, another possible explanation surfaced: South Korean news website Daily NK reported that Kim was recovering at a mountain villa after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure last week. It cited a single unidentified source. North Korean state media outlets were silent on the question: Kim’s health is a top-secret matter at the best of times. But the report quickly snowballed after CNN cited a U.S. official “with direct knowledge” as saying that Washington was monitoring intelligence that Kim’s health was in “grave danger” after a surgery.
The network later cited another official as saying concerns about Kim’s health were credible but that the severity was hard to assess. While South Korea’s government soon denied the report, the events revived uncertainty about what might transpire in North Korea should Kim be incapacitated.
“We have nothing to confirm regarding recent media reports about the health problems of Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea, and no atypical movement inside North Korea has been detected,” Kang Min-seok, a spokesman for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, said in a statement.
Another South Korean government official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name, said the CNN report was “not true.”
“Our government understands that Kim Jong Un is currently staying in a region outside Pyongyang,” he said.