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North Korea is going through one of the biggest changes in its history after Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un passed considerable powers on to his sister Kim Yo-jong and several aides. Much speculation has floated as for the reasoning behind the move. Early reports suggested the leader wanted to relieve his “high stress levels”.
Yet, as the story has progressed, bombshell claims have emerged that Kim might be holed up in hospital in a coma.
Ex-aide to the late South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, Chang Song-min, believes the rogue state is hiding the truth about their leader’s health.
He told local media: “I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not 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.”
However, many have noted that the North has a tendency to push outlandish stories out of its borders when it wants attention, or in the run up to significant events.
In June, shortly before the current events, Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, a scholar of Korean and East Asian studies and authority on North Korea, in an op-ed for the New York Times, claimed that the North would use the upcoming US election to “jab” and “goad” US President Donald Trump.
He explained: “Thursday (25 June) marked the anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War in 1950, which was triggered by the North’s invasion of the South.
“Some of us expected Pyongyang to commemorate the day with some military provocation.
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“It didn’t, but something like that almost surely is in the offing.
“Expect a goad, a jab, one outrage or another, certainly some challenge ahead of the election in the United States — anything to throw off Mr Trump, beleaguered as he is by the pandemic, mass protests and a historic economic crisis.”
Interestingly, Prof Lee’s next point has proved somewhat prophetic, as he said on the imminent jab: “And don’t be surprised if Kim Yo-jong delivers it.”
Yo-jong has fast risen to power within the North’s current administration.
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Many have said it is no surprise that she has effectively become Kim’s second-in-command as the power looks to further cement the Kim family as the country’s true ruling dynasty.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service spy agency first revealed that Yo-jong had gained control of considerable powers.
The revelation came during a closed-door briefing last week to South Korea’s National Assembly, which lawmakers present later discussed with journalists.
The agency was quoted as saying: “Kim Jong-un is still maintaining his absolute authority, but some of it has been handed over little by little.”
But, the agency has in the past got things wrong.
Officials from the service were quick to dispel any concerns around Kim’s health.
However, Kim is known to have suffered minor health issues in the past.
In 2014, after being absent in public or photographs for weeks, Kim re-appeared with a walking stick.
The Supreme Leader is also known to enjoy smoking cigarettes.
Despite this, the North yesterday launched an intense anti-smoking campaign in a bid to curb the population’s addiction.
It is thought that just less than half of all North Korean men smoke.
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