Intense speculation about the Supreme Leader’s health has reached frenzied levels in recent days, with conflicting reports suggesting he is dead after a bungled heart operation, in a vegetative state, or alive and well. Ji Seong-ho, who escaped the Hermit State in 2004 and almost drowning in the process, now represents the Future Korea Party in South Korea’s National Assembly, having been elected last month. He told Yonhap News Agency: “I’ve wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery.
“I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend.
“It is not 100 percent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 percent.
“North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue.”
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Ji has refused to name the source who provided him with the information, and there is no way of independently verifying his claims.
However, he singled out 32-year-old Kim Yo-jong, one of her brother’s closest advisers, as the most likely candidate to replace him if the reports are true.
Separately, a former North Korean diplomat who likewise defected to South Korea, told CNN: “I’m not quite sure whether he really had some surgery or whatever, but one thing is clear – he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly.”
Despite Ji’s remarks, South Korea’s presidential office Cheong Wa Dae has announced it has not detected any “unusual” signs in North Korea regarding Kim’s health.
US President Donald Trump, who has met Kim on three occasions, when questioned on the subject two days ago, said: “Kim Jong Un? I can’t tell you exactly.
“Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can’t talk about it now. I just wish him well.”
Author Roy Calley, who has visited North Korea on more than ten occasions, told Express.co.uk: “I think these rumours are almost certainly true, especially with the arrival of the personal train.
“Knowing the country the way I do, I’m convinced they would parade him to the world if he was okay. They wouldn’t want this speculation.”
Mr Calley, author of Look With Your Eyes and Tell The World, which offers insights into North Korean society, added: “The carriage where the Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il, Kim’s father, died is still on public display, so they will obviously be preparing for an announcement.
“This might be delayed for quite some time, as the outpouring of grief across the country is like nothing you will see anywhere else.”
However, Prof Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), had a slightly different take.
He told Express.co.uk: “I don’t believe he is dead – at least not yet.
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“I think if he was, it would have emerged officially by now.
“I’m not saying he will not die in the next few days or weeks.
“I’m just saying I don’t think it has happened yet.”
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