The US intelligence agencies are receiving information that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in grave danger after undergoing surgery, CNN reported on Monday.
The outlet cited an unnamed US official with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed Kim Jong Un is in a critical condition
Another US official said there were concerns over Kim’s health, but it was hard to assess the severity of the situation.
A South Korean government official told the country’s Yonhap news agency that Kim Jong Un was not seriously ill, contradicting the report.
Earlier Monday, a South Korean media report said that the 37-year-old despot was being treated following a cardiovascular procedure earlier this month.
The reclusive leader missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday, the nation’s founder, Kim Il Sung, on April 15, sparking speculations about his health.
Kim Jong Un underwent the surgery April 12 at a hospital in the Mount Kumgang resort county of Hyangsan and was recovering at a villa there, reported Daily NK, a website run mostly by North Korean defectors, citing unidentified sources inside the hermit kingdom.
The diminutive dictator’s health has deteriorated in recent months due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork, the report said.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said it couldn’t confirm the reports.
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The National Security Council and Office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment to CNN. The CIA and the State Department didn’t immediately comment.
But a South Korean official familiar with North Korean affairs played down the CNN report, telling the Yonhap news agency that Kim had made several public appearances recently and that “nothing in particular” indicated that he was in poor health.
The South’s presidential Blue House said it had not observed any unusual movements in the North.
Kim’s health had deteriorated in recent months due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork, the Daily NK report said.
“My understanding is that he had been struggling [with cardiovascular problems] since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu,” a source was quoted as saying, referring to the country’s sacred mountain.