North Korea’s Kim Jong Un did not receive any cardiovascular surgery, a senior South Korean official said Sunday, trashing all past speculations.
The comment came a day after Kim’s reappearance following a near three-week absence that triggered intense speculation about his health.
“Chairman Kim is not believed to have received surgery,” an unidentified senior official at the South’s presidential office said, according to Yonhap news agency.
“There were media reports speculating about Chairman Kim’s surgery, citing a change in the way he walks,” a senior official in the South Korean president’s office told reporters.
He said the reports were not true.
When asked whether the North Korean leader did not even go through a relatively moderate medical procedure, the official replied yes.
The official, who asked not to be named, however, refused to unveil the grounds that this judgment was made upon.
The North’s state media reported on Saturday that Kim cut the tape at a ceremony marking the completion of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertiliser Factory in Sunchon, north of Pyongyang, on Friday.
This marked the North Korean leader’s first public appearance in 20 days since April 11, when he presided over a Politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party.
North Korean state television showed Kim walking, smiling broadly and smoking a cigarette at what it said was the opening of a fertiliser factory on Friday.
His absence from an annual event marking the April 15 birth anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung had fanned speculation he might be seriously ill.
Despite media reports speculating on his illness, officials in Seoul have repeatedly said there are no unusual signs in North Korea and that Kim is believed to be staying in the country’s eastern coastal town of Wonsan.
In a parliamentary meeting, Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul referred to the unconfirmed reports as “fake news” and an “infodemic.”
“We have intelligence capacity that allows us to say confidently there are no unusual signs,” Kim said.
The Cheong Wa Dae official, meanwhile, downplayed reports suggesting that the fertilizer plant may be mobilized to extract uranium for the North’s nuclear activities, saying they are not credible.