KEY POINTS

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un underwent a cardiovascular procedure April 12 at Hyangsan Hospital, according to the Daily NK
  • The topic of Kim’s health arose after he missed the April 15 anniversary birthday celebration of his grandfather
  • Kim Jong Un, curently 36 years old, was named the “Great Successor” in 2009

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un underwent a cardiovascular procedure April 12 at Hyangsan Hospital, according to the Daily NK, an online news source based in South Korea that covers events in North Korea. 

NBC News, based on reports from American officials, echoed the Daily NK's reports and added Kim may be incapacitated.

However, South Korea’s presidential office, in stark contrast to the NBC News report, said Kim “is currently touring provincial areas with his close aides and we do not detect evidence to support speculation about his ill health.”

United States President Donald J. Trump, recently criticized in the media for touting the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat those afflicted with COVID-19, did not offer any medical advice but expressed his opinion the reports may be false; he then wished the North Korean leader well.

Trump's words at a White House briefing Thursday were, “I think the report was incorrect, let me just put it that way. I hear the report was an incorrect report. I hope it was an incorrect report.”

Any news originating from North Korea was open to speculation, but the topic of Kim’s health arose after he missed the April 15 anniversary birthday celebration of his grandfather, North Korea’s founding father Kim Il Sung (1912-1994).

Kim Il Sung led North Korea from 1948 until he died in 1994. The Korean War (1950-1953) resulted in a new demarcation line close to the 38th parallel north that was previously considered the border between North and South Korea, established after World War II.

His son, the current leader’s father, was Kim Jong-il (1941 or 1942 – 2011) who took over leadership in 1994 and was named “Eternal President” in 1998. The current Kim was named the Supreme Leader after the death of his father in 2011.

Kim Jong Un, curently 36 years old, was named the “Great Successor” in 2009 and later named a four-star general. Both elder Kims died from heart attacks and were 82 and 69 years old respectively when they died.

The largest diplomatic issue with North Korea was the state of its nuclear program. Trump and Kim Jong un have made some progress, but talks were stalled over inspection and verification of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities.

Kim launched more than 100 missiles and conducted four nuclear weapons tests, which was more than his father and grandfather launched over 27 years.

In a Tuesday press conference, President Trump said, “I’ve had a very good relationship with him. I wouldn’t -- I can only say this, I wish him well, because if he is in the kind of condition that the reports say, that’s a very serious condition, as you know. But I wish him well.”

North Korea was making the highly unlikely claim that they have no cases of COVID-19, so it was not known if there was any connection between the condition of the young leader and the global pandemic.