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Iran Press TV

North Korea's Kim may be trying to avoid coronavirus: South Korea

Iran Press TV

Tuesday, 28 April 2020 11:34 AM

South Korea has again rejected reports about a serious illness afflicting North's leader Kim Jong-un, saying his recent absence from a key public event may have been to avoid exposure to the new coronavirus.

The South's Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who is in charge of North Korean affairs, said during an address before the country's lawmakers on Tuesday that Kim missed the major commemoration ceremony on April 15 due to ongoing measures to avert the spread of the highly-contagious virus and not because he was ill.

"It is true that he had never missed the anniversary for Kim Il-sung's birthday since he took power, but many anniversary events, including celebrations and a banquet, had been cancelled because of coronavirus concerns," said the minister, referring to the leader's grandfather and founder of North Korea.

He said there were at least two other instances since mid-January where the North Korean leader was out of sight for nearly 20 days. "I don't think that's particularly unusual given the current (epidemic) situation."

North Korea has said it has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

Given the fact that the country has taken rigorous steps to head off an outbreak, Kim's absence from the recent ceremonies is not particularly unusual, the South Korean minister said.

Kim's absence from public ceremonies on the birth anniversary of his grandfather was widely viewed in the Western media as unprecedented, leading to speculation about his health.

Officials in Seoul, however, had already said that they had detected no unusual movements in North Korea, cautioning against continuing reports that Kim may be gravely ill.

South Korea and China refuted a report last week by mainstream US news broadcaster CNN that claimed Pyongyang's leader was in "grave danger" following a cardiovascular procedure, insisting that he was not seriously ill.

Trump claims has 'good idea' of Kim's health

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump asserted on Monday that he had a "good idea" how Kim was doing and hoped he was fine.

"I can't tell you exactly," Trump said when asked about Kim's condition at a White House news conference. "Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can't talk about it now. I just wish him well."

Trump further suggested that the mystery would be solved soon.

"I hope he's fine. I do know how he's doing relatively speaking. We will see. You'll probably be hearing in the not-too-distant future," Trump added.

Japan PM closely watching reports about Kim's health

Separately, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Tuesday that he was aware of reports on the health of the North Korean leader and was paying close attention to relevant developments.

Abe reportedly made the remarks during a parliamentary session.

While North Korean state media have not reported on Kim's whereabouts since he presided over a meeting on April 11, they have carried reports of him sending letters and diplomatic messages, suggesting that he is still carrying out his duties as leader.

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