North Korea's Kim Jong-un in coma, sister to take control
North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un has slipped into a coma and his sister Kim Yo-jong will become the de-facto ruler, multiple reports said. The speculations were fuelled by comments of Chang Song-min, a close aide of South Korea's late President Kim Dae-jung. Earlier this year, similar reports of Kim's poor health had surfaced, but back then he made a grand public appearance.
In coma, but alive: South's diplomat on Kim's health
Addressing South's media, Chang claimed Kim is in a coma but his life "hasn't ended." "A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period," he told media. He added that Kim Yo-jong, her brother's trusted aide, is poised to take over control.
Earlier, South Korea's intelligence agency hinted at change of guard
Now, Chang's explosive comments came days after South Korea's National Intelligence Service indicated that Kim delegated some of his authority to his younger sister to "ease stress." He, however, will continue exerting "absolute pressure." "Kim Yo-jong, the first vice department director of the Workers' Party Central Committee, is steering overall state affairs based on the delegation," the agency claimed.
So, what makes Kim Yo-jong his rightful successor?
For a nation governed by only men, Kim Yo-jong's rise to power is unusual, but the fact that she has "royal blood" supports her case. Her influence over Kim's administration became well-known when she was seen with the leader during summits with US President Donald Trump and China's Xi Jinping. Earlier, it was said Kim's son is also in the line of succession.
This year, Kim underwent a surgery, his health deteriorated thereafter
Notably, reports about Kim's poor health have been doing rounds since he cut down his public appearances. He also skipped the birth anniversary celebrations of his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, North's founding father. In April, it was said he is critical after undergoing surgery due to "excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork." The United States was said to be closely monitoring his health.
Amid rumors of ill-health, Kim attended an inauguration ceremony
However, while the reports raged on, Kim made his first public appearance as he inaugurated a fertilizer company at Sunchon, not far away from the capital Pyongyang. In the pictures that emerged, Kim was flanked by his aides, smiled, and waved at his supporters. Seeing their leader on his feet, the attendees clapped and cheered as well. But Chang has claimed the images were fake.