Forget everything you’ve been hearing about Kim Jong Un. The Supreme Leader is apparently just fine.
CNN ANCHOR: “North Korea denies its leader is having any health problems, that's according to South Korea's state news agency.”
To bring you up to speed, North Korea’s young leader hasn’t been seen in public in more than a month. (Video via Arirang)
Which is especially bizarre considering state-run TV broadcasts are otherwise filled every night with images of Kim surrounded by adoring citizens.
Eventually North Korea did acknowledge his absence, saying Kim — seen here limping in this video from July — was “suffering from discomfort.” The purposely vague language spurred all sorts of speculation. (Video via ODN)
Most popular — the theory Kim is suffering from gout as a result of his rapid weight gain.
Others have claimed Kim had ankle surgery, which would explain the limp.
Then there was the whole Kim’s addicted to Swiss cheese report. What a scoop!
Bottom line is, that means international press can, and will, report just about any rumor that comes out of North Korea. After all, the exact nature of Kim's health and grasp on power is impossible to verify given the state's tightly-controlled media.
Take in 2008, when Kim’s father suffered a stroke. North Korea’s propagandists didn't once mention his condition and instead aired old footage of him smiling at public events.
Then again, it’s entirely possible there really is nothing wrong with Kim. Consider that last summer, Kim disappeared from public view for 10 days and a coup wasn't the cause.
A Seoul-based professor told Time all the evidence suggests Hermit Kingdom isn't on the brink of collapse: "If there had been regicide or revolt in Pyongyang, it’s unlikely the wheels of North Korean diplomacy would spin like business as usual."
Foreign Policy offers a few alternative explanations: “Perhaps he's afraid of assassination attempts, and is staying out of sight. Perhaps he's under house arrest, and a cabal of generals is ruling North Korea. Perhaps he's on vacation. It's impossible to say.”
In case things weren’t interesting enough, three close aids to Kim, including the man presumed to be second-in-command, arrived in South Korea Friday for a rare visit.
Many experts say sending such a high-ranking delegation actually suggests stability within the regime.