South Korea reimposes some social distancing after COVID cases spike


South Korea will reimpose some social distancing rules from tomorrow after reporting its largest single-day spike in coronavirus infections in almost two months.

Museums, parks and art galleries in the capital Seoul will shutter their doors from Friday with companies urged to reintroduce flexible working hours, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said.

It comes after 79 new cases of the virus were reported on Thursday, the country’s largest single-day rise since April 5, sparking fears of a second wave.

The news will be worrisome for European leaders attempting to emerge from full lockdown, because measures they are using to prevent a second wave are similar to those used in South Korea – which has been widely praised for its response.

South Korea reported 79 new cases of coronavirus on Thursday, its largest single-day rise in almost two months, with a majority of cases linked to a warehouse near Seoul (pictured)

The country's health minister hinted that social distancing may have to be reinforced as it becomes difficult to track and test cases (pictured, warehouse workers are tested)

The country’s health minister hinted that social distancing may have to be reinforced as it becomes difficult to track and test cases (pictured, warehouse workers are tested)

‘We have decided to strengthen all quarantine measures in the [Seoul] metropolitan area for two weeks from tomorrow to June 14,’ he said.

Citizens were also advised to refrain from social gatherings or going to crowded places – including restaurants and bars – while religious facilities were asked to be extra vigilant with quarantine measures.

There will be no new delays, however, to the phased re-opening of schools that is currently underway.

‘The next two weeks are crucial to prevent the spread of the infection in the metropolitan area,’ Park said.

‘We will have to return to social distancing if we fail.’

The health minister said the government will be forced to re-impose an all-out social distancing campaign if the country sees more than 50 new cases for at least seven consecutive days.

The majority of the cases reported Thursday are linked to the warehouse of an internet retailer located in Bucheon, on the outskirts of Seoul.

Sixty nine of the 79 new cases were detected among the warehouse’s 4,100 staff, with around 80 per cent of workers tested.  

‘We are expecting the number of new cases linked to the warehouse to continue rising until today as we wrap up related tests,’ vice health minister Kim Gang-lip said.

It comes after another 250 cases were linked to nightclubs in Seoul in early May. 

Social distancing rules have been relaxed in South Korea and facilities such as museums and churches have reopened. 

Some professional sports – including baseball and soccer – started new seasons earlier this month, albeit behind closed doors.

Students have been returning to classes since last week, with more than 2million pupils going back to classes on Wednesday this week. 

South Korea never went into full lockdown but did enforce social distancing rules which have been slowly relaxed in recent weeks, with 2million children going back to school yesterday

South Korea never went into full lockdown but did enforce social distancing rules which have been slowly relaxed in recent weeks, with 2million children going back to school yesterday

The country endured one of the worst early outbreaks of the disease outside mainland China, but managed to bring it under control thanks to extensive testing and contact tracing of every case.

South Korea never imposed a total lockdown of the kind seen in Europe, although it did impose strict social distancing rules in March – which are now being relaxed.

In total the country has reported 11,344 cases and 269 deaths, one of the lowest totals of any developed nation. 

Despite avoiding full lockdown, South Korea’s economy is still expected to suffer the effects of coronavirus – though the drop will be far less severe than elsewhere.

The country’s central bank forecast a decline of 0.2 per cent in GDP this year on Thursday, a marked downgrade on the 2.1 per cent growth predicted in February as the virus was still spreading.

By comparison the European economy – which is only now emerging from full lockdown – is expected to fall by up to 12 per cent this year, the European Central Bank has said. 

The Bank of Korea made its forecast as it cut interest rates to 0.5 per cent in an attempt to ease the strain on hard-hit businesses.

‘The growth of the domestic economy has slowed significantly’ due to the coronavirus, and is expected to be sluggish and unpredictable in future, the central bank said in a statement.

‘The employment situation has deteriorated,’ it added, with many in the service sector losing jobs, while ‘exports fell significantly’.

It is the second rate cut in three months, after a surprise 50-basis-point reduction to 0.75 percent in March.

The South is highly trade-dependent and saw its worst economic performance in more than a decade in the first quarter as the epidemic struck.

Gross domestic product shrank 1.4 percent year-on-year during the January to March period, its biggest decline since the fourth quarter of 2008 during the global financial crisis.

Britain abandoned coronavirus testing in March because the outbreak was already TOO BIG


The UK abandoned coronavirus testing in March because the outbreak was already out of control and hundreds of thousands of people were infected, officials have admitted.

Public Health England bosses, who were grilled by MPs this morning, admitted that officials wanted to follow the strategy of South Korea to keep a lid on the pandemic.

But shortly after the February there were ‘many hundreds of thousands’ of people infected with COVID-19 and trying to test them all would have been futile.

At the time the government was managing to test fewer than 2,000 people per day.

As a result, directors at Public Health England said, it was ‘not worthwhile’ to continue trying to find and isolate every case of COVID-19 and officials.

The chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, publicly announced on March 12 that the government would no longer test anyone outside of hospitals.

The government has been heavily criticised for building its testing capacity too slowly, with experts saying better testing could have helped to contain the virus and save lives.  

Current testing efforts are on a much greater scale but PHE this morning revealed that huge numbers of people sent home testing kits are not returning them.

The posted kits are counted as a test in the government’s much-heralded daily numbers, but Professor John Newton, director of health improvement at PHE, could only say ‘certainly more than half’ of the tests are currently returned to the lab. 

A revealing meeting with MPs on Parliament’s Science and Technology also found:

  • Public Health England has refused to give MPs some of the scientific papers it submitted to SAGE, despite repeated requests;
  • Conservative MP Greg Clark accused PHE of ‘a degree of opacity of the basis on which decisions were made to pursue our testing strategy’;
  • PHE passed the buck on various decisions, from that of stopping public testing, of refusing the help of private laboratories, and of how to count the number of tests – all these decisions, bosses said, were taken by the Department of Health;
  • Professor John Newton, PHE’s testing tsar, urged members of the public not to buy antibody tests from Superdrug or any other private companies selling them;
  • The door is still open for possible ‘immunity certificates’ when scientists understand whether people are safe from re-infection after recovering;
  • School reopenings should be taken on an individual basis, Professor Doyle said, with some schools ready earlier than others. 

Professor John Newton, PHE's director of health improvement

Professor Yvonne Doyle and Professor John Newton were today grilled by MPs and defended Publlic Health England’s actions throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, saying the Department of Health took the major decisions while PHE provided specialist advice

South Korea has earned global acclaim for its policy of intensively testing and isolating everyone in the population suspected of having COVID-19.

This means the cases there have been contained to relatively small areas and the number of them is extremely low (around 11,000 confirmed cases).

Britain had wanted to follow the same strategy but, by the time officials realised the virus was spreading in the UK, it was already too late.

Professor Doyle said today that ‘mass contact tracing needed to cease in March’.

She explained: ‘It was a decision that was come to because of the sheer scale of cases in the UK which had been introduced by multiple introductions, particularly after half term, from European countries we now know had large amounts of prevalence themselves.’

Professor Doyle is believed to be referring to Italy in this point – it was around half-term that the outbreak in the country’s Alpine ski resorts took hold and rattled Britain’s schools, many of which had sent pupils there on trips during the week off.

‘So we had multiple introductions,’ Professor Doyle added, ‘with many hundreds of thousands of people in March who had now been exposed to this virus in this country.

‘So contact tracing could not possibly have had the capacity to address that and, with the capacity of lab testing and our contact tracers, we felt the most important thing to do was to focus on where there was national concern, which was the capacity of the NHS, to accrue that testing.’ 

On March 12 Professor Chris Whitty announced that the government was stopping testing of members of the public for COVID-19.

Until then, its policy was to test everyone suspected of having the virus if they had been to a country where cases had been confirmed.

But as the outbreak spiralled out of control, the government decided to only test people who were in hospital as patients or staff.

That persisted until late April, when officials began to widen the criteria again.

Home tests are now available but Professor John Newton said he didn’t know how many people who ordered them were actually returning them to the labs.

When asked directly what the return rate is, Professor Newton hesitated before saying: ‘Certainly more than half.’

Asked again by Greg Clark, chair of the meeting, Professor Newton added: ‘I’m afraid I don’t have that figure.’

Hackers target developers of online games in an effort to infect players with malware


Hackers target developers of online games in an effort to profit off of in-game currency and infect players with malware

  • The hacks affected unnamed developers in South Korea and Taiwan
  • Compromises allowed hackers to sneak malware into ‘game executables’
  • It also gave hackers access to servers and manipulate in-game currency
  • It’s unclear how many people, if any, were affected by the hacks 

Security researchers say hackers have infiltrated developers of popular online games in an effort to manipulate in-game currency and infect players with malware.

As reported by ArsTechnica, the cyber security firm ESET detailed the hacks in a recent blog post, describing how a hacking group was able to infiltrate multiple game developers based in South Korea and Taiwan.

According to ESET, who didn’t name the companies, the developers run massively multiplayer online (MMO) games and have thousands of active daily users. 

The compromises affect multiple game developers based in south Korea and Taiwan but it’s unclear which companies were breached (stock)

Breaches were discovered in February and relevant companies were notified, they say. 

Researchers say that in one recorded case, hackers who gained privileged access to a developer’s servers could have offloaded malware into ‘video game executables’ which are available to players.

‘In at least one case, the attackers were able to compromise the company’s build orchestration server, allowing them to take control of the automated build systems,’ the researchers write.

‘This could have allowed the attackers to include arbitrary code of their choice in the video game executables.’

In another instance, ESET says hackers who compromised game servers would have been able to manipulate in-game currency for financial gain. 

ESET researchers attribute the work to a hacking collective called the Winnti Group who have previously infiltrated other games developers, including Nfinity Games in 2018.

It’s unclear how many users, if any were affected, by the hacks according to researchers.

Solution made of stem cells from fat tissues triggers hair regrowth


Hope for a baldness CURE as study shows a solution made of stem cells from fat tissues can trigger hair regrowth

  • Researchers discovered fat cells have growth hormones that can work on hair
  • Volunteers rubbed the new solution into their scalp twice per day for 16 weeks
  • Study authors say they noticed a ‘significant’ increase in hair count in volunteers

Stem cells taken from fat tissue are being used to create a new solution that has been shown to trigger hair regrowth in people with male-pattern baldness. 

Androgenetic alopecia – also known as male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness – is a condition caused by genetic, hormonal and environmental factors.

Researchers from the Pusan National University Yangsan Hospital, South Korea, say it affects about 50 per cent of all men and a similar percentage of women over 50.  

The team recruited 38 patients – 29 men and nine women – with this common baldness and found a ‘significant increase in hair count’ after 16 weeks. 

Androgenetic alopecia – also known as male-pattern baldness and female-pattern baldness – is a condition caused by genetic, hormonal and environmental factors

Study authors say that while it is not life-threatening, male-pattern baldness can lower self-esteem and psychological wellbeing in people with the condition.

There are a few FDA-approved medications in the US to treat hair loss, but the most effective can have side effects such as loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. 

The discovery of this new solution was made when scientists found connective fat tissue let off growth hormones that help cells develop. 

Study authors examined these stem cells in more detail and found they could trigger a number of growth factors increase the size of the hair follicles.   

‘Recent studies have shown that [the solution can] promote hair growth in both men and women with alopecia,’ said researcher Professor Sang Yeoup.

‘However, no randomised, placebo-controlled trial in humans has explored the effects and safety of adipose-derived stem cell constituent extract (ADSC-CE)’ in male pattern baldness.

They created a study of midd-aged people with pattern-baldness to discover whether ADSC-CE solutions could work to cure them.

Of the 38 patients they studied, half were given ADSC-CE solution and the other a placebo solution that had no growth hormones.  

Each patient applied the solution or placebo to their head with their fingers.

Senior author, Young Jin Tak, said: ‘At the end of 16 weeks, the group that received the ADSC-CEs had a significant increase in both hair count and follicle diameter.’

Study authors say that while it is not life-threatening, male-pattern baldness can lower self-esteem and psychological wellbeing in people with the condition

Study authors say that while it is not life-threatening, male-pattern baldness can lower self-esteem and psychological wellbeing in people with the condition

The authors say the findings suggest ADSC-CE solution can have ‘enormous potential’ as an alternative to other hair growth strategies as it can increase both hair density and thickness.

‘The next step should be to conduct similar studies with large and diverse populations in order to confirm the beneficial effects of ADSC-CE on hair growth and elucidate the mechanisms responsible for the action of ADSC-CE in humans.’

Anthony Atala, editor-in-chief of STEM CELLS translational medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine, said it offered hope.

‘The topical solution created from proteins secreted by stem cells found in fat tissue proves to be both safe and effective. We look forward to further findings that support this work.’ 

The research has been published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. 



Kim Jong Un replaced top spy chief and head of his personal bodyguard


North Korea has replaced the head of its spy agency and the man in charge of providing security for Kim Jong Un, it has been revealed. 

Rim Kwang Il, a Lieutenant General in the North Korean army, has been appointed as the head of the country’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, South Korea said.

Kwak Chang Sik, whose name only began appearing in state media last year indicating a rapid rise in fortunes, is now in charge of Kim’s Supreme Guard.

Kwak Chang Sik

Rim Kwang Il (left) is thought to have been appointed as head of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, North Korea’s military spy agency, while Kwak Chang Sik (right), is the new head of Kim’s Supreme Guard

The promotions were revealed Wednesday following speculation about Kim Jong Un's health. He disappeared for 20 days before reappearing at the opening of a fertiliser factory (pictured)

The promotions were revealed Wednesday following speculation about Kim Jong Un’s health. He disappeared for 20 days before reappearing at the opening of a fertiliser factory (pictured)

Rim is thought to have been promoted to head of the RGB in December last year, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said, shortly before a party plenum led by Kim.

The RGB is North Korea’s premier spy agency and is thought to have been behind attacks, cyber operations and espionage against South Korea, Japan and the US.

Seoul believes the agency orchestrated the 2010 torpedoing of South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, which killed 46 sailors. 

Kim Yong-chol, hard-line military general who later went on to lead nuclear negotiations with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was in charge at the time.

Kwak, a relative unknown in the ranks of North Korea’s leadership until now, is thought to have been promoted to chief of Kim’s guards last April.

Rim was also promoted to the ruling party’s military committee while Kwak was appointed to the central committee at the plenum last December, reflecting their change in rank.

Hyon Song Wol, believed to be Kim's former girlfriend, has also been promoted and now likely serves as vice director of the propaganda and agitation department

Hyon Song Wol, believed to be Kim’s former girlfriend, has also been promoted and now likely serves as vice director of the propaganda and agitation department

Observers said the moves represent Kim tightening his grip on power in the country by appointing more of his closest aides to senior positions.

‘Last year, 80 per cent of the politburo members were replaced and nine of 11 members, or 82 per cent, of the State Affairs Commission were changed,’ a Unification Ministry official said.

The SAC is North Korea’s highest decision-making body, headed by Kim himself.

Another figure earning promoting was Hyon Song Wol, believed to be Kim’s former girlfriend who has since become a senior adviser.

While her new occupation was not listed, she is believed to have taken up a position as the party’s vice director at propaganda and agitation department.

She was previously lead singer of the country’s Moranbong Band, an all-female group which are often used by North Korea as a propaganda tool.

Both appointments were first reported Wednesday following widespread speculation about Kim’s health. 

The North Korean dictator was rumoured to have died or been left in a vegetative state following heart surgery after he disappeared from public view last month.

The 20-day absence, the longest for Kim since he disappeared from view for ankle surgery in 2014, ended on May 1 when he was pictured opening a fertiliser factory.

While Kim’s disappearance – including an unprecedented absence from a day celebrating his grandfather’s birthday – has not been officially explained, it has been suggested that rumours about his health were not entirely unfounded.

Others – including South Korean officials – have suggested he merely left the capital Pyongyang to keep himself protected from coronavirus.

North Korea has officially acknowledged no cases, but observes believe the disease is in fact widespread there.

Conspiracy theorists have suggested that Kim may in fact still be gravely ill and used a body-double for his ‘live’ appearance, but experts say this is unlikely. 

Dogs destined to be EATEN in South Korea are saved following months spent in cages


Dogs destined to be eaten in South Korea have been saved following months of being locked up in cages after the coronavirus outbreak delayed their rescue.

An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all.

The rescue, originally scheduled for early March, was brought to a sudden halt when the coronavirus lock-down hit South Korea and the rest of the world, making moving the dogs impossible. 

International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can’t yet fly to their final destination – Canada and the United States – where they will eventually find adoptive homes.

Dogs are shown locked in a cage at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea. They have now been saved from being eaten after the HSI rescued them

An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all

An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea after months of the animals being locked up

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea after months of the animals being locked up

International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can't yet fly to their final destination - Canada and the United States - where they will eventually find adoptive homes. They are pictured in the cages

International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can’t yet fly to their final destination – Canada and the United States – where they will eventually find adoptive homes. They are pictured in the cages

So in the meantime, HSI is relocating them to a temporary boarding facility in South Korea where they will receive veterinary care rehabilitation. 

Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years but amid growing opposition to eating them, and a series of new regulations and court rulings cracking down on the industry, farmers like Mr Kim are increasingly looking for an exit strategy.

Farmer Kim said: ‘It may sound odd but I started dog farming because I like dogs. I’ve never actually been a big fan of dog meat myself. I had a few dogs so I began breeding them and when I had 20 or 30 I started to sell them because I thought it would be good money but it hasn’t really worked out that way. 

Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years. Pictured: one of the dogs is out into a carry cage during the rescue

Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years. Pictured: one of the dogs is out into a carry cage during the rescue 

After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity

After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, holds a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, during the rescue mission

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, holds a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, during the rescue mission 

Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments they have, before being sent to the US and Canada

Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments they have, before being sent to the US and Canada

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, yesterday. They saved 70 dogs from being slaughtered

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, yesterday. They saved 70 dogs from being slaughtered 

‘I earn nothing from this dog farm, and pressure from the government is increasing and it’s not a good business at all.’ 

At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries – the meat trade and the puppy mill trade.

After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity.

Nara Kim, HSI’s dog meat campaigner, said: ‘Unfortunately, it is still very common in South Korea to see live puppies for sale in pet shop windows. But what most Koreans will be shocked to learn is that these same puppies could easily have ended up being killed for human consumption instead. 

‘Whether they live or die, they are all born in this miserable place, their mothers intensively bred over and over until they are exhausted and eventually sold to slaughterhouses. 

‘I’m so glad that this nightmare has ended for these lovely dogs, but until the government commits to phase out this dreadful industry, the nightmare continues for millions more. As Koreans we need to be their voice and call for an end to the dog farming and dog meat industries.’ 

These adorable puppies were some of the 70 animals rescued from the meat farm in South Korea. They will all be checked over by vets

These adorable puppies were some of the 70 animals rescued from the meat farm in South Korea. They will all be checked over by vets 

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea yesterday. This puppy had only just been born

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea yesterday. This puppy had only just been born 

At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries - the meat trade and the puppy mill trade

At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries – the meat trade and the puppy mill trade

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, comforts a dog after its vaccination at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, comforts a dog after its vaccination at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea

Mr Kim's farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015. This puppy had lost some of its fur

Mr Kim’s farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015. This puppy had lost some of its fur 

Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Pictured: one of the dogs in its cage

Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Pictured: one of the dogs in its cage 

Mr Kim’s farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015.

Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments. For example, Winkie the Boston terrier had a badly injured eye, and Grace the Beagle lost a paw caught in the jagged wire floor of her cage. 

Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. 

In 2018 both Indonesia and Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi pledged an end to the dog meat trade, and most recently in April 2020 the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai banned dog and cat meat consumption following a public statement by the Chinese government that dogs are considered companions and not livestock. 

As global pressure builds for countries across Asia to permanently close wildlife wet markets amid coronavirus risks, the array of undeniable human health risks posed by the dog meat trade in South Korea and across Asia, is strengthening calls for action across the continent. 

Dogs destined to be EATEN in South Korea are saved following months spent in cages


Dogs destined to be eaten in South Korea have been saved following months of being locked up in cages after the coronavirus outbreak delayed their rescue.

An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all.

The rescue, originally scheduled for early March, was brought to a sudden halt when the coronavirus lock-down hit South Korea and the rest of the world, making moving the dogs impossible. 

International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can’t yet fly to their final destination – Canada and the United States – where they will eventually find adoptive homes.

Dogs are shown locked in a cage at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea. They have now been saved from being eaten after the HSI rescued them

An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all

An animal charity mission to save around 70 dogs from the meat farm in Hongseong finally got underway after Humane Society International worked with the farmer to convince him to quit the dog meat industry once and for all

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea after months of the animals being locked up

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea after months of the animals being locked up

International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can't yet fly to their final destination - Canada and the United States - where they will eventually find adoptive homes. They are pictured in the cages

International travel restrictions still mean the dogs can’t yet fly to their final destination – Canada and the United States – where they will eventually find adoptive homes. They are pictured in the cages

So in the meantime, HSI is relocating them to a temporary boarding facility in South Korea where they will receive veterinary care rehabilitation. 

Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years but amid growing opposition to eating them, and a series of new regulations and court rulings cracking down on the industry, farmers like Mr Kim are increasingly looking for an exit strategy.

Farmer Kim said: ‘It may sound odd but I started dog farming because I like dogs. I’ve never actually been a big fan of dog meat myself. I had a few dogs so I began breeding them and when I had 20 or 30 I started to sell them because I thought it would be good money but it hasn’t really worked out that way. 

Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years. Pictured: one of the dogs is out into a carry cage during the rescue

Mr Nakseon Kim had been breeding dogs for nearly 40 years. Pictured: one of the dogs is out into a carry cage during the rescue 

After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity

After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, holds a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, during the rescue mission

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, holds a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, during the rescue mission 

Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments they have

Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments they have 

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, yesterday

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a dog at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea, yesterday 

‘I earn nothing from this dog farm, and pressure from the government is increasing and it’s not a good business at all.’ 

At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries – the meat trade and the puppy mill trade.

After years of sending the animals to slaughter, Mr Kim will now start a new life growing cabbages and other vegetables instead, with the help of the charity.

Nara Kim, HSI’s dog meat campaigner, said: ‘Unfortunately, it is still very common in South Korea to see live puppies for sale in pet shop windows. But what most Koreans will be shocked to learn is that these same puppies could easily have ended up being killed for human consumption instead. 

‘Whether they live or die, they are all born in this miserable place, their mothers intensively bred over and over until they are exhausted and eventually sold to slaughterhouses. 

‘I’m so glad that this nightmare has ended for these lovely dogs, but until the government commits to phase out this dreadful industry, the nightmare continues for millions more. As Koreans we need to be their voice and call for an end to the dog farming and dog meat industries.’ 

These adorable puppies were some of the 70 animals rescued from the meat farm in South Korea

These adorable puppies were some of the 70 animals rescued from the meat farm in South Korea

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea yesterday

The HSI Animal Rescue Team rescues a puppy at a dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea yesterday

At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries - the meat trade and the puppy mill trade

At his property in Hongseong, Mr Kim breeds Poodles, Beagles, Huskies, Golden retrievers, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Boston terriers for two abusive industries – the meat trade and the puppy mill trade

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, comforts a dog after its vaccination at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea

Nara Kim, campaign manager of HSI Korea, comforts a dog after its vaccination at the dog meat farm in Hongseong, South Korea

Mr Kim's farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015

Mr Kim’s farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015

Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Pictured: one of the dogs in its cage

Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. Pictured: one of the dogs in its cage 

Mr Kim’s farm was the 16th of its kind to be closed since its farmer transition program began in 2015.

Once off the farm, the dogs will receive veterinary attention for any injuries or ailments. For example, Winkie the Boston terrier had a badly injured eye, and Grace the Beagle lost a paw caught in the jagged wire floor of her cage. 

Dog meat consumption has been steadily declining in South Korea, and is banned or severely restricted in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines. 

In 2018 both Indonesia and Vietnam’s capital city Hanoi pledged an end to the dog meat trade, and most recently in April 2020 the Chinese cities of Shenzhen and Zhuhai banned dog and cat meat consumption following a public statement by the Chinese government that dogs are considered companions and not livestock. 

As global pressure builds for countries across Asia to permanently close wildlife wet markets amid coronavirus risks, the array of undeniable human health risks posed by the dog meat trade in South Korea and across Asia, is strengthening calls for action across the continent. 

North Korean defector apologises for saying Kim Jong Un was probably so ill he could not stand


A former senior North Korean diplomat has apologised for saying Kim Jong-un was likely so ill ‘he cannot stand up by himself or walk properly’ just three days before the dictator was seen smoking a cigarette at a public event.

North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong Ho, told CNN  Kim’s ‘abnormal’ absence from a ruling party showpiece on April 15 signalled the dictator must be physically impaired. 

Thae fled to South Korea in 2016 and was one of two defectors elected to parliament last month. 

In a statement he said he felt ‘blame and heavy responsibility’ for making his unfounded claims.

‘I am aware that one of the reasons why many of you voted for me as a lawmaker is with the expectations of an accurate analysis and projections on North Korean issues’, he said. ‘Whatever the reasons, I apologise to everyone.’ 

On Saturday, North Korean media published photographs of Kim at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the inauguration of a fertiliser plant. Pictured, file image shows Kim smoking a cigarette in Hanoi

North Korea's former deputy ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong Ho (pictured), told CNN Kim's 'abnormal' absence from a ruling party showpiece on April 15 signalled the dictator must be physically impaired

North Korea’s former deputy ambassador to Britain, Thae Yong Ho (pictured), told CNN Kim’s ‘abnormal’ absence from a ruling party showpiece on April 15 signalled the dictator must be physically impaired

Kim disappeared from state media for weeks, sparking a flurry of speculation about his health and whereabouts, and worry about prospects for the nuclear-armed state in the event of an unexpected succession.

But on Saturday, North Korean media published photographs of Kim at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the inauguration of a fertiliser plant.

His re-emergence came as a blow to the credibility of some high-profile defectors from the North who had speculated that Kim was suffering from a grave illness or could even be dead.  

The other prominent defector elected to parliament, Ji Seong-ho, said in a media interview he was 99 per cent certain that Kim had died after cardiovascular surgery and an official announcement would come as soon as Saturday.

Ji, who was invited to attend US President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address in 2018, could not be reached on Monday.

On Friday he said he had received information about Kim’s death from a source he could not disclose. He added he ran for office to bring attention to human rights abuse in the North.  

The despot (pictured with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong) cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon, state media reported, and released pictures supposedly showing the event

 The despot (pictured with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong) cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon, state media reported, and released pictures supposedly showing the event

South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party criticised the pair for carelessness that it said could do more serious than just misinforming the public.

One party member said they should be excluded from the intelligence and defence committees.

Daily NK, a South Korean news outlet run by North Korean defectors, reported in April that Kim was recovering from a cardiovascular procedure, sparking international speculation about his health.

This image released by Korean Central News Agency supposedly shows Kim Jong-Un (centre) attending the ceremony next to his sister (pictured third from left) and other senior officials on Friday

This image released by Korean Central News Agency supposedly shows Kim Jong-Un (centre) attending the ceremony next to his sister (pictured third from left) and other senior officials on Friday

But a senior South Korean government official told reporters today that the presidential office does not believe the authoritarian leader underwent an operation, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

The news from South Korea came as the two neighbours exchanged gunfire along the border, just a day after Kim’s reappearance.

Kim Jong-Un’s last known movements 

April 11 – The dictator presides over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party committee of policymakers. His most recent public appearance

April 15 – Kim is absent from celebrations for North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung

April 21 – First reports surface claiming the dictator has received heart surgery from South Korean-based publication Daily NK

April 23 – Kim’s private train is spotted near his holiday resort in Wonsan on satellite images. It is at a station reserved for use by the Kim family, prompting rumours that he has travelled to the destination

April 23 – Chinese doctors reportedly arrive in North Korea around this time to treat the dictator. China is yet to confirm or deny the reports

May 1 – Pictures emerge of the dictator apparently at a fertiliser factory in Sunchon with his sister

Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said he believed the timing of the ‘grey area’ provocation shows it could been planned to show that Kim was still in charge of the North Korean military. 

‘Yesterday, Kim was trying to show he is perfectly healthy, and today, Kim is trying to mute all kinds of speculation that he may not have full control over the military,’ Choi said.

‘Rather than going all the way by firing missiles and supervising a missile launch, Kim could be reminding us, ”yes I’m healthy and I’m still in power”.’ 

An unnamed senior official at the South’s presidential office said: ‘Chairman Kim is not believed to have received surgery.

‘There were media reports speculating about Kim’s surgery, citing a change in the way he walks,’ the official added, saying Seoul had enough grounds to draw the conclusion.    

North Korean troops fired multiple gunshots towards the South in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula early on Sunday, prompting South Korean forces to fire back.

The gunfire broke out between the two nations when North Korea fired a series of shots towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North at 7.41am local time, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs (JCS) said.

The JCS in Seoul said in a statement today that the guard post was hit by several shots from the North.

Kim (pictured) expressed satisfaction about the production system of the fertiliser factory, saying the plant made significant contribution for the progress of the country's chemical industry and food production, KCNA said

Kim (pictured) expressed satisfaction about the production system of the fertiliser factory, saying the plant made significant contribution for the progress of the country’s chemical industry and food production, KCNA said

Kim was last seen in public on April 11, when he presided over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party in Pyongyang. 

On April 15, he inexplicably missed a Day of the Sun celebration honouring his grandfather Kim Il-Sung, the founder of North Korea. 

His unprecedented absence sparked a wave of speculation about his health, and he was not seen in public for 20 days.

On Saturday, May 2, the despot made his first public appearance after his absence, when he cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon. 

Experts have suggested that Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong (pictured together in Pyongyang in September 2018) could be in line to succeed her brother if necessary

Experts have suggested that Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong (pictured together in Pyongyang in September 2018) could be in line to succeed her brother if necessary 

Before Kim’s reappearance, vice director of Hong Kong Satellite Television Shijian Xingzou claimed he was dead. Officials in South Korea and the US were sceptical.  

The former top US diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel said the pieces of the puzzle of Kim’s disappearance would take time to assemble.

His public appearance showed authoritative information about the well-being and whereabouts of a North Korean leader were very closely guarded, and rumours about him needed to be regarded with considerable skepticism, Russel said.

The rumours had, however, served to focus attention on North Korea’s succession plan, which ‘in a monarchical and cult-like dictatorship is filled with risk, and the absence of a designated adult heir compounds that risk many times over,’ Russel said.

Earlier, a source familiar with US intelligence analyses and reporting said US agencies believed Kim was not ill and remained very much in power.

Medical experts have assessed video footage of the visit and claim marks on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s arms (pictured) show he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’, US-funded NK News reported

‘We think he’s still in charge,’ the source said on condition of anonymity. The source could not immediately confirm the KCNA report. The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with Pyongyang, said it was plausible Kim was absent as a precaution over the coronavirus pandemic, in view of the stringent steps taken to head off an outbreak in the country.

Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said this still could be the case.

He said: ‘The most likely explanation for Kim’s absence is with North Korea declaring the coronavirus pandemic an existential threat… he most likely was taking steps to ensure his health or may have been impacted in some way personally by the virus.’

Military guard posts of North Korea (rear) and South Korea (bottom) are seen in Paju, at the border with North Korea, South Korea

Military guard posts of North Korea (rear) and South Korea (bottom) are seen in Paju, at the border with North Korea, South Korea

In his appearance at the fertiliser factory, Kim expressed satisfaction about the production system and said the plant made a significant contribution to the progress of the country’s chemical industry and food production, KCNA said. 

Marks on Kim’s wrist seen as he sat on a golf cart at the factory suggest he could have had heart surgery, medical experts claimed.  

The experts assessed video footage of the visit and claimed marks on Kim’s arms showed he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’, US-funded NK News reported.   

This picture from state media supposedly shows the mass celebrations as Kim opened the fertiliser factory in Sunchon

This picture from state media supposedly shows the mass celebrations as Kim opened the fertiliser factory in Sunchon

Kim 'attended the ceremony' on Friday and 'all participants broke into thunderous cheers of 'hurrah!' when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. Pictured is an image shared by the agency on Saturday

Kim ‘attended the ceremony’ on Friday and ‘all participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. Pictured is an image shared by the agency on Saturday

What appeared to be needle marks could be seen on his wrists while he rode in a golf cart that looked a lot like the one he used in 2014, when he returned to the public eye with a cane after some time away. 

Asked about the KCNA report, US President Donald Trump said: ‘I’d rather not comment on it yet. We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time.’ 

Memes surfaced across social media in the West in response to the report that the dictator has been out and about.

One said ‘Kim Jong-Un with the best comeback of 2020’, while another posted a picture comparing the dictator to the wrestler the Undertaker. A man wrote ‘so Kim Jong-Un is alive and well’ above a picture of Spiderman looking unsure.

While another added ‘North Korean state media release photo of Kim Jong-Un’ with a picture a man being held up by two others.

Memes surfaced across social media in the West on Friday in response to the report that the North Korean dictator has been spotted

Memes surfaced across social media in the West on Friday in response to the report that the North Korean dictator has been spotted

The news appears to fly in the face of a report earlier on Friday from a North Korean defector claiming he was ’99 per cent sure’ Kim was dead.

Ji claimed to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency he had been ‘told Kim died last weekend’ after cardiovascular surgery.

The defector said Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong was in line to succeed her brother but said the secretive state was ‘grappling with a complicated succession issue’. State-controlled media in North Korea had not provided any definitive proof Kim was alive.

But there was a sign of life earlier on Friday as Daily NK reported the regime had issued a directive signed by Kim himself, the first in two weeks.

Ji suggested Kim might have died after heart surgery. ‘I’ve wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery. I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend,’ he said.

‘It is not 100 per cent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 per cent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue.’

Senior party and government officials celebrate the 108th anniversary of founder Kim Il-Sung's birth in Pyongyang on April 15 - a ceremony which Kim Jong-un inexplicably missed

Senior party and government officials celebrate the 108th anniversary of founder Kim Il-Sung’s birth in Pyongyang on April 15 – a ceremony which Kim Jong-un inexplicably missed

Pyongyang has never made any succession plans public, but experts say Kim’s sister has been the most visible presence around the dictator in recent years.

She was named an alternate member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee Politburo last month.

North Korea is the world’s most secretive country and reports about Kim and his family, including the suggestion he recently had heart surgery, are nearly impossible to verify.

But other defectors have cast doubt on whether such sensitive information would ever leak out from Kim’s inner circle.

Some defectors say their relatives in North Korea did not know Kim had been missing from public view for three weeks.  

One said people had been talking about Kim’s whereabouts in very private circles after he failed to appear at the ruling party showpiece on April 15.

Kim’s unprecedented absence from the Day of the Sun ceremony honouring his grandfather prompted the major speculation about his welfare.

Defector Lee Soon-hee said: ‘I talked to my sister and my niece this morning and they had no clue about these reports and rumours about Kim Jong Un’s health.

‘When I told them, they were so cautious about discussing it. North Koreans have a very limited knowledge of these things.’ Lee defected to the South in 2009.

A 250-metre-long train belonging to the dictator has been spotted near to his Wonsan holiday compound as recently as Thursday in satellite photos

A 250-metre-long train belonging to the dictator has been spotted near to his Wonsan holiday compound as recently as Thursday in satellite photos

North Koreans are keenly aware they could face punishment for discussing the Kim family, said Sokeel Park, of Liberty in North Korea, a group that works with defectors.

He said: ‘That doesn’t mean people don’t take that risk, some people do. But it’s still a super sensitive issue. It’s a little like the pope not showing up for Christmas,’ he said of Kim’s absence from the April 15 celebrations.

South Korean officials say they have not detected any ‘unusual movements’ north of the demilitarised zone.

The South’s minister in charge of North Korean affairs said on Tuesday fear of coronavirus could have kept Kim away from the April 15 ceremony.

President Trump said yesterday: ‘I understand what is going on, I cannot just talk about him right now, just hoping that everything will be fine. But I do understand the situation very well’.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has said he was aware of reports on Kim’s health and was paying close attention to developments.

Still, experts said it was strange North Korea had not quickly release a picture of a healthy-looking Kim if there was no truth to the rumours.

Official media has not provided any verifiable proof of life since April 11, other than reporting he had sent messages to North Korean workers and to South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and the pictures of him in Sunchon.

Who could take over the reigns of power from Kim Jong-Un when he dies?

Kim Yo-jong, dictator’s sister

The dictator’s sister has been widely tipped as a likely successor. However, much about her remains a mystery.

‘Among the North’s power elite, she has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that is possibly more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst told the Associated Press. 

Her age is unclear, though she’s believed to be in her 30s and a few year’s younger than her 36-year-old brother.

She’s kept a low profile, only making her first public statement last month in which she mocked South Korea as a ‘frightened dog barking’ after the country protested against a live fire military exercise.

She also has a reputation for aggressively pushing North Korean propaganda and, in 2017, was blacklisted by the US Treaasury Department.  

Ri Pyong-chol, top general and related to Kim’s wife

The general has also been listed as a possible successor.

As supervisor of the country’s ballistic missile program, he has the credentials to command the military, the ultimate power-brokers inside the country.

He is also seen as a credible heir to Kim Jong Un’s ambitions, and could be regarded as offering a balance between the hard-liners and Kim dynasty.

He also holds a high position in the Worker’s Party of Korea.

Other possible successors include Ri Yong-ho, foreign minister, Kim Yong-chol, top diplomat, and No Kwang-chol, defence minister.

The other defector, Thae,  warned only a small handful of people would know the full story.

He also cautioned clues about Kim’s whereabouts – such as an apparent sighting of his personal train in the city of Wonsan – could be deliberate diversion tactics.

Pyongyang officials know the train can be seen from satellites and have previously sent it around the country to confuse outsiders, Thae said.

The sighting of the train was followed by further satellite images from Wonsan showing boats often used by Kim and his entourage.

North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

Each change at the top in North Korea has raised the prospect of a leadership vacuum or collapse of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.

So far, each of the three Kims to rule North Korea has defied expectations, holding on to power with an iron grip.

But under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has grown substantially, raising concerns over who would control them.

In the event of any leadership transition, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong is likely to play a central part.

In the past two years, Yo Jong has risen quickly through North Korea’s leadership hierarchy, serving officially as a vice director of the Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee, but also unofficially as her brother’s chief of staff.

Kim Yo Jong, who is believed to be 31, has a firm control of key party functions, setting herself to be the main source of power behind a collective leadership.

She has regularly been observed at her brother’s side, leading South Korean Media to dub her the ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’.

‘Kim Yo Jong will be for the time being the main power base with control of the organisation and guidance department, the judiciary and public security,’ said Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded think-tank in Seoul.

Still, relatively little is known of of Kim Yo Jong. The dictator’s younger sibling has routinely kept a low profile, having only made her first public statement last month, in which she mocked South Korea as being a ‘frightening dog barking’, for opposing a live-fire military demonstration.

But sources say Yo Jong’s work behind the scenes suggests she would rule with the same iron-fist as her predecessors, should she be announced leader, temporarily or otherwise.

Along with several other North Korean officials, Kim Yo Jong was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department for ‘severe human rights abuses’ in 2017.

She also incurred a reputation for her aggressive propaganda pushing, regarded a one of the main officials who worked to enact ‘rigid censorship policies and conceals its inhumane and oppressive behavior’.

‘Among the North’s power elite, Kim Yo Jong has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that possibility is more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst said.

Yo Jong first began working in the ruling party in 2007, but in the last few years she has ‘gotten a lot more serious’ about the role she’s playing, government consultant Michael Madden told the New Yorker.

‘When you see footage of her on the receiving lines, she is smiling, a nice friendly young woman, but when she is out of those lines, the smile vanishes and she even looks like Kim Jong Il,’ Madden remarked.

Should she be announced as ruler, Yo Jong would become North Korea’s first female leader since her Grandfather Kim Il-Sung founded the nation in 1948.   

North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated, and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister (above) and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over

North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated, and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister (above) and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019 

In the event of Kim Jong Un’s death, party Elders Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju would likely find themselves at Yo Jong’s side, helping to weather any leadership storm.

Ryong Hae was announced as North Korea’s nominal head of state last when he rose to become president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, following decades of service within the party for the ruing Kim family.

Choe and Pak Pong Ju, a fellow politburo member and former state premier who oversaw the North’s push to introduce more free-market functions to revive its economy, are likely to be the figureheads leading a collective leadership, analysts say.

Unlikely to emerge as a major presence is Kim Jong Un’s estranged older brother, Kim Jong Chol, who has not been a part of the country’s leadership instead opting for a quite life away from politics playing music.

Though according to North Korea’s former deputy ambassador in London, who has since defected to the South, Jong Chol does maintain ties with his siblings and could play a more public role in any contingency plans.

Kim Jong Un is believed to have three children with Ri Sol Ju, the youngest born in 2017, according to the South’s National Intelligence Service.

The oldest is a 10-year-old son, meaning any of the three would need the assistance of their relatives or political guardians if they were to become a fourth-generation hereditary leader.

Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the country, while Kim Jong Un had just over a year to prepare, due to his father’s sudden death from a heart attack.

Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said: ‘Kim Yo Jong is unlikely to take over the helm but could help build a caretaker regime as a power broker until the kids grow up, and Kim Jong Chol might return to help for a while.’

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

This is not the first time Kim has disappeared from the public eye. In 2014, Kim was not seen for 40 days, before he reemerged appearing to walk with a limp and using a cane, after he reportedly suffered from an ankle problem.

His father Kim Jong-il disappeared from view for months in 2008, prompting speculation that he had a stroke. A French doctor later confirmed the reports, and the then leader died three years later.

But North Korea’s ruling elite have vanished from the spotlight before prompting rumors of their death only to re-emerge seemingly unscathed.

In 2015 it was claimed by a North Korean defector Kim ordered his own aunt to be killed by poison. The aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, re-appeared smiling in January.

A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea last month, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported earlier last month Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12. It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.

South Korean government officials and a Chinese official with the Liaison Department challenged subsequent reports suggesting Kim was in grave danger after surgery. South Korean officials said they had detected no signs of unusual activity in North Korea.

North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated and secretive countries, and the health of its leaders is treated as a matter of state security. Reuters has not been able to independently confirm any details on Kim’s whereabouts or condition.

North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11. State media did not report he was in attendance at an event to mark the birthday of his grandfather – an important anniversary in North Korea.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019 

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in January last year. An official familiar with US intelligence said Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walks with his wife Ri Sol Ju at Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea, in January last year. An official familiar with US intelligence said Kim was known to have health problems but they had no reason to conclude he was seriously ill or unable eventually to reappear in public

Kim, believed to be 36, has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before. In 2014, he vanished for more than a month and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp.

Speculation about his health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.

When Kim Jong Un’s father Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in 2008, South Korean media reported at the time that Chinese doctors were involved in his treatment along with French physicians.

Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the first state visit in 14 years by a Chinese leader to North Korea, an impoverished state that depends on Beijing for economic and diplomatic support.

China is North Korea’s chief ally and the economic lifeline for a country hard-hit by U.N. sanctions, and has a keen interest in the stability of the country with which it shares a long, porous border.

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack. He has visited China four times since 2018.

Trump held unprecedented summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019 as part of a bid to persuade him to give up North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

‘The North Korean version of Undertaker’: Internet reacts to claims Kim Jong-un is alive after photos of dictator are released for the first time in 20 days following rumours he had died

Twitter users rejoiced following the return to public life of North Korean despot Kim Jong-un. 

Several reports from the hermit state suggested Kim, who is believed to be in his late 30s, could have undergone major surgery or even possibly died.  

He had not been seen in public since April 11 and missed the national celebrations for his grandfather and founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung on April 15. 

One twitter user posted a publicity shot from the 1989 buddy movie Weekend at Bernie's which involves two friends carrying around body of their dead boss pretending he was still alive

One twitter user posted a publicity shot from the 1989 buddy movie Weekend at Bernie’s which involves two friends carrying around body of their dead boss pretending he was still alive

Another comedy fan used a Simpsons meme where a patient's condition is upgraded from 'dead' to 'alive' after being transferred to a better hospital

This user found inspiration from the 55-year-old WWE Wrestler Mark William Calaway, better known as The Undertaker ,who makes a dramatic entrance to the ring

Another comedy fan used a Simpsons meme where a patient’s condition is upgraded from ‘dead’ to ‘alive’ after being transferred to a better hospital, while another used an image of WWE wrestler The Undertaker

However, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA released photographs of a smiling Kim inspecting a fertiliser plant outside Pyongyang. 

The report said Kim cut a ribbon as the crowd ‘burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader…’. 

Twitter users questioned the authenticity of the photographs, with memes ripped from The Simpsons and Weekend at Bernies.  

Kim was seen in photographs smiling and talking to aides at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and also touring the plant. The authenticity of the photos, published on the website of the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, could not be verified.

Many in the large crowd of people, described as officials of the army, the ruling party and the community who worked on the project, were wearing face masks and standing some distance from the podium where Kim and his aides took part in the ceremony.

North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus and has said it has been taking tough measures to prevent an outbreak. One reason for Kim’s absence has been the suggestion he may have been taking precautions against coronavirus.

Kim was accompanied by senior North Korean officials, including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong and top aides vice-chairman Pak Pong Ju of the State Affairs Commission and cabinet premier Kim Jae Ryong, and KCNA said.

This social media wag posted an image of a man in an iron lung which was previously used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis

This person appears to be sceptical about the announcement from North Korea

This social media wag posted an image of a man in an iron lung which was previously used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis 

Kim Jong -un, pictured with his sister Kim Yo Jong, reportedly opened a fertiliser factory north of Pyongyang earlier this week. The images were released by North Korea's news agency KCNA to stymie rumours that the dictator was incapacitated or even dead

Kim Jong -un, pictured with his sister Kim Yo Jong, reportedly opened a fertiliser factory north of Pyongyang earlier this week. The images were released by North Korea’s news agency KCNA to stymie rumours that the dictator was incapacitated or even dead

Asked about the KCNA report on Kim, U.S. President Donald Trump said: ‘I’d rather not comment on it yet.’

‘We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time,’ he told reporters at the White House. 

Speculation about Kim’s health has been rife after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15. The day is a major holiday in North Korea and Kim as leader usually pays a visit to the mausoleum where his grandfather lies in state.

He last made a public appearance on April 11 attending a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party politburo.

Following his absence from the anniversary, a South Korean news outlet specialising on the North reported that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure. A flurry of other unconfirmed reports about his condition and his whereabouts followed.

Officials in South Korea and the United States expressed scepticism about the reports.

State TV footage on Saturday showed Kim’s leg movements appearing stiff and jerky and one of the images showed a green golf cart in the background, similar to one he used in 2014 after a lengthy public absence.     

Kim Jong-un has NOT had surgery, claim South Korean officials after despot leader returned from 20-day stint out of the public eye sparking rumours of his death

by Chris Dyer for MailOnline 

Officials in Seoul believe North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not undergo surgery, it emerged today.

Speculation about the Supreme Leader’s health mounded around the world after the head of the Hermit Kingdom had not been seen in public for nearly three weeks.

Yesterday Kim appeared at the opening of a fertiliser factory to quash rumours he had died.

Pictures from the event appeared to show the dictator had needle marks on his forearm and he appeared to use a golf buggy to get around. Kim had previously used a cart following leg surgery.

But a senior South Korean government official told reporters today that the presidential office does not believe the authoritarian leader underwent an operation, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

The news from South Korea came as the two neighbours exchanged gunfire along the border, just a day after Kim’s reappearance.

Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said he believed the timing of the ‘grey area’ provocation shows it could been planned to show that Kim was still in charge of the North Korean military.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the completion of a fertiliser plant, in a region north of the capital, Pyongyang. It was the first time the dictator had been seen in public since it was rumoured he had died

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the completion of a fertiliser plant, in a region north of the capital, Pyongyang. It was the first time the dictator had been seen in public since it was rumoured he had died  

Kim Jong-un appeared to have needle on his arm during his first public appearance in almost three weeks and mounting speculation he underwent heart surgery

Kim Jong-un appeared to have needle on his arm during his first public appearance in almost three weeks and mounting speculation he underwent heart surgery 

Military guard posts of North Korea (rear) and South Korea (bottom) are seen in Paju, at the border with North Korea, South Korea, today

Military guard posts of North Korea (rear) and South Korea (bottom) are seen in Paju, at the border with North Korea, South Korea, today 

‘Yesterday, Kim was trying to show he is perfectly healthy, and today, Kim is trying to mute all kinds of speculation that he may not have full control over the military,’ Choi said.

‘Rather than going all the way by firing missiles and supervising a missile launch, Kim could be reminding us, ”yes I’m healthy and I’m still in power”.’

Rumours about Kim’s health have been swirling since his conspicuous no-show at April 15 celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather, the North’s founder, Kim Il-sung. 

An unnamed senior official at the South’s presidential office said: ‘Chairman Kim is not believed to have received surgery.

‘There were media reports speculating about Kim’s surgery, citing a change in the way he walks,’ the official added, saying Seoul had enough grounds to draw the conclusion.  

His absence triggered a series of fevered rumours and unconfirmed reports over his condition, while the United States and South Korea insisted they had no information to believe any of the conjecture was true.

North Korean state television showed Kim walking, smiling broadly and smoking a cigarette at what it said was the opening of a fertiliser factory on Friday. 

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on May 1 when he resurfaced following reports he had died. North Korea has fired multiple gunshots towards South Korea, the South's Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on May 1 when he resurfaced following reports he had died. North Korea has fired multiple gunshots towards South Korea, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement

A television screen showing a news broadcast with an image of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un at a service station near Gapyeong, South Korea

A television screen showing a news broadcast with an image of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un at a service station near Gapyeong, South Korea

Today North Korean troops fired multiple gunshots towards the South in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula early on Sunday, prompting South Korean forces to fire back.

The gunfire broke out between the two nations when North Korea fired a series of shots towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North at 7.41am local time, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs (JCS) said.

The JCS in Seoul said in a statement today that the guard post was hit by several shots from the North.

The rare exchange of gunfire comes a day after North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong-un had made his first public appearance in nearly three weeks following an absence that triggered intense speculation about his health and fears about the stability of the isolated nation.

Reports around the world speculated if Kim Jong-un had died during a medical procedure.

South Korean Defence Ministry in Seoul showing South Korean soldiers leaving from a border guard post at an undisclosed area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in a 2018 file image

South Korean Defence Ministry in Seoul showing South Korean soldiers leaving from a border guard post at an undisclosed area in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing the two Koreas in a 2018 file image

South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said.

The South is taking action to try to ‘grasp the detailed situation’, it said.

‘We are taking actions via inter-Korean communication lines to grasp the detailed situation and to prevent any further incidents,’ the JCS statement read.

‘And we also maintain a necessary readiness posture.’  

It is not clear why the gunfire erupted, but no injuries have been reported on either side.

‘Our military responded with two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement,’ the JCS said.

The South Korean military later said the North Korean gunshots were ‘not deemed intentional’, according to the Yonhap news agency. 

In a lengthy briefing held later on Sunday, an official at South Korea’s JCS said the gunshots did not seem a planned provocation, as the area where it ocurred was farmland, but declined to provide a clear conclusion about the incident.

‘In absence of vision [for the target] and in the fog, would there be an accurate provocation?’ the official said.

South Korean army soldiers patrolling along the barbed-wire fence in Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea last December. Today there was an exchange of fire at the border

South Korean army soldiers patrolling along the barbed-wire fence in Paju, South Korea, near the border with North Korea last December. Today there was an exchange of fire at the border

A North Korean flag fluttering in the wind at a military guard post in Paju, at the border with North Korea, on Sunday

A North Korean flag fluttering in the wind at a military guard post in Paju, at the border with North Korea, on Sunday

The two neighbours regularly open fire on each other and technically remain in a constant state of war after the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953, but not a peace treaty.

Despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is one of the most fortified places on earth, replete with minefields and barbed-wire fences.

Both sides have troops poised along the 155-mile border ready to open fire on the other side at any point.

Easing military tensions on their border was one of the agreements reached between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a summit in Pyongyang in September 2018.

But most of the deals have not been acted on by North Korea, with Pyongyang largely cutting off contact with Seoul.

North Korea’s discussions with the United States over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal are also at a standstill, despite three meetings between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Increased tensions between the two nations comes as Kim Jong-un was seen for the first time in three weeks on Friday. 

Speculation concerning the controversial leader’s health began to gain momentum after he failed to turn up at the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 13, one of the country’s biggest calendar events. 

A watch tower in North Korea pictured in 2017: A series of gunshots were fired from North Korea at 7:41 am local time towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North, the JCS said

A watch tower in North Korea pictured in 2017: A series of gunshots were fired from North Korea at 7:41 am local time towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North, the JCS said

North Korea soldiers near the border in 2017: South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said

North Korea soldiers near the border in 2017: South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said

Rumors and reports grew that he had died.  

But North Korea’s supreme leader then emerged alive, as he was pictured cutting the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory Friday.

He ‘attended the ceremony’ at the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertiliser Factory on Friday and ‘all the participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!” when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. 

The dictator was seen smiling and talking to aides at the ceremony and also touring the plant, but the authenticity of the photos could not be verified.

The uncertainty around the peace process would have increased had Kim been incapacitated or dead as rumoured in recent weeks. 

He was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, Korean Central News Agency said.

There continues to be speculation over why he has not been seen in such a long time, including that he had complications after heart surgery or was suffering from the coronavirus. 

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed wire fence in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed wire fence in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea

According to medical experts who viewed footage of the dictator’s return, Kim Jong-un’s wrist suggests he could have had heart surgery. 

US-funded NK News reported that marks on Kim’s arms show he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’. 

What appeared to be needle marks could be seen on his wrists while he rode in a golf cart that looked a lot like the one he used in 2014, when he returned to the public eye with a cane after some time away.

Kim has not been seen with marks on his wrists before. 

President Donald Trump celebrated the dictator’s apparent return to the public eye in a social media post Saturday, stating he is glad to see him back in good health after rumors he had died.

The president retweeted pictures of Kim at the fertilizer factory and wrote: ‘I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!’ 

It is unclear whether the White House has authenticated the pictures released by North Korean state media. 

Before Kim’s reappearance, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he remained hopeful a nuclear deal could be clinched with North Korea.

‘Regardless of what transpires inside of North Korea with respect to their leadership, our mission remains the same – to deliver on that commitment that Chairman Kim made with President Trump…[the] verified denuclearisation of North Korea,’ Pompeo told reporters.

‘We are still hopeful that we’ll find a path to negotiate that solution to get the outcome that is good for the American people, good for the North Korean people and for the whole world.’ 

Kim Jong-un ‘not believed to have received surgery’ as North Korea fires shots towards South


Officials in Seoul believe North Korean leader Kim Jong-un did not undergo surgery, it emerged today.

Speculation about the Supreme Leader’s health mounded around the world after the head of the Hermit Kingdom had not been seen in public for nearly three weeks.

Yesterday Kim appeared at the opening of a fertiliser factory to quash rumours he had died.

Pictures from the event appeared to show the dictator had needle marks on his forearm and he appeared to use a golf buggy to get around. Kim had previously used a cart following leg surgery.

But a senior South Korean government official told reporters today that the presidential office does not believe the authoritarian leader underwent an operation, according to the Yonhap News Agency.

The news from South Korea came as the two neighbours exchanged gunfire along the border, just a day after Kim’s reappearance.

Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said he believed the timing of the ‘grey area’ provocation shows it could been planned to show that Kim was still in charge of the North Korean military.

‘Yesterday, Kim was trying to show he is perfectly healthy, and today, Kim is trying to mute all kinds of speculation that he may not have full control over the military,’ Choi said.

‘Rather than going all the way by firing missiles and supervising a missile launch, Kim could be reminding us, ”yes I’m healthy and I’m still in power”.’

Rumours about Kim’s health have been swirling since his conspicuous no-show at April 15 celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather, the North’s founder, Kim Il-sung. 

An unnamed senior official at the South’s presidential office said: ‘Chairman Kim is not believed to have received surgery.

‘There were media reports speculating about Kim’s surgery, citing a change in the way he walks,’ the official added, saying Seoul had enough grounds to draw the conclusion.  

His absence triggered a series of fevered rumours and unconfirmed reports over his condition, while the United States and South Korea insisted they had no information to believe any of the conjecture was true.

North Korean state television showed Kim walking, smiling broadly and smoking a cigarette at what it said was the opening of a fertiliser factory on Friday. 

Today North Korean troops fired multiple gunshots towards the South in the Demilitarized Zone dividing the peninsula early on Sunday, prompting South Korean forces to fire back.

The gunfire broke out between the two nations when North Korea fired a series of shots towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North at 7.41am local time, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs (JCS) said.

The JCS in Seoul said in a statement today that the guard post was hit by several shots from the North.

The rare exchange of gunfire comes a day after North Korean state media reported that leader Kim Jong-un had made his first public appearance in nearly three weeks following an absence that triggered intense speculation about his health and fears about the stability of the isolated nation.

Reports around the world speculated if Kim Jong-un had died during a medical procedure.

South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said.

The South is taking action to try to ‘grasp the detailed situation’, it said.

‘We are taking actions via inter-Korean communication lines to grasp the detailed situation and to prevent any further incidents,’ the JCS statement read.

It is not clear why the gunfire erupted, but no injuries have been reported on either side.

‘Our military responded with two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement,’ the JCS said.

The South Korean military later said the North Korean gunshots were ‘not deemed intentional’, according to the Yonhap news agency. 

In a lengthy briefing held later on Sunday, an official at South Korea’s JCS said the gunshots did not seem a planned provocation, as the area where it ocurred was farmland, but declined to provide a clear conclusion about the incident.

‘In absence of vision [for the target] and in the fog, would there be an accurate provocation?’ the official said.

The two neighbours regularly open fire on each other and technically remain in a constant state of war after the Korean War ended in a truce in 1953, but not a peace treaty.

Despite its name, the Demilitarized Zone is one of the most fortified places on earth, replete with minefields and barbed-wire fences.

Both sides have troops poised along the 155-mile border ready to open fire on the other side at any point.

Easing military tensions on their border was one of the agreements reached between Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a summit in Pyongyang in September 2018.

But most of the deals have not been acted on by North Korea, with Pyongyang largely cutting off contact with Seoul.

North Korea’s discussions with the United States over Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal are also at a standstill, despite three meetings between Kim and US President Donald Trump.

Increased tensions between the two nations comes as Kim Jong-un was seen for the first time in three weeks on Friday. 

Speculation concerning the controversial leader’s health began to gain momentum after he failed to turn up at the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 13, one of the country’s biggest calendar events. 

But North Korea’s supreme leader then emerged alive, as he was pictured cutting the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory Friday.

He ‘attended the ceremony’ at the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertiliser Factory on Friday and ‘all the participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!” when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. 

The dictator was seen smiling and talking to aides at the ceremony and also touring the plant, but the authenticity of the photos could not be verified.

The uncertainty around the peace process would have increased had Kim been incapacitated or dead as rumoured in recent weeks. 

He was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, Korean Central News Agency said.

There continues to be speculation over why he has not been seen in such a long time, including that he had complications after heart surgery or was suffering from the coronavirus. 

According to medical experts who viewed footage of the dictator’s return, Kim Jong-un’s wrist suggests he could have had heart surgery. 

US-funded NK News reported that marks on Kim’s arms show he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’. 

What appeared to be needle marks could be seen on his wrists while he rode in a golf cart that looked a lot like the one he used in 2014, when he returned to the public eye with a cane after some time away.

President Donald Trump celebrated the dictator’s apparent return to the public eye in a social media post Saturday, stating he is glad to see him back in good health after rumors he had died.

The president retweeted pictures of Kim at the fertilizer factory and wrote: ‘I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!’ 

It is unclear whether the White House has authenticated the pictures released by North Korean state media. 

Before Kim’s reappearance, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last month that he remained hopeful a nuclear deal could be clinched with North Korea.

‘Regardless of what transpires inside of North Korea with respect to their leadership, our mission remains the same – to deliver on that commitment that Chairman Kim made with President Trump…[the] verified denuclearisation of North Korea,’ Pompeo told reporters.

‘We are still hopeful that we’ll find a path to negotiate that solution to get the outcome that is good for the American people, good for the North Korean people and for the whole world.’

Has Kim Jong-un had heart surgery? Medical experts say ‘needle’ marks on his arms in newly released pictures could hint at procedure


Marks on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s wrist suggests he could have had heart surgery, say medical experts.

The despot made his first alleged public appearance for 20 days yesterday when he cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon, according to state media.

Medical experts have assessed video footage of the visit and claim marks on Kim’s arms show he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’, US-funded NK News reported. 

The dictator was seen smiling and talking to aides at the ceremony and also touring the plant, but the authenticity of the photos could not be verified.

He was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, Korean Central News Agency said.

Medical experts have assessed video footage of the visit and claim marks on North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s arms (pictured) show he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’, US-funded NK News reported

When Kim last appeared in public on April 11 (pictured) he did not have any marks on his wrists

When Kim last appeared in public on April 11 (pictured) he did not have any marks on his wrists

What appeared to be needle marks could be seen on his wrists while he rode in a golf cart that looked a lot like the one he used in 2014, when he returned to the public eye with a cane after some time away. 

Asked about the KCNA report, US President Donald Trump said: ‘I’d rather not comment on it yet. We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time.’ 

Speculation about Kim’s health has been rife after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15.

The day is a major holiday in North Korea and Kim as leader usually pays a visit to the mausoleum where his grandfather lies in state.

He last made a public appearance on April 11 attending a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party politburo.

Kim has not been seen with marks on his wrists before.  

Following his absence from the anniversary, a South Korean news outlet specialising on the North reported Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure.

The despot (pictured with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong) cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon, state media reported, and released pictures supposedly showing the event

The despot (pictured with his younger sister Kim Yo Jong) cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon, state media reported, and released pictures supposedly showing the event

A flurry of other unconfirmed reports about his condition and his whereabouts followed including from vice director of Hong Kong Satellite Television Shijian Xingzou who claimed he was dead. Officials in South Korea and the US were sceptical.

The former top US diplomat for East Asia Daniel Russel said the pieces of the puzzle of Kim’s disappearance would take time to assemble.

His reappearance showed authoritative information about the well-being and whereabouts of a North Korean leader were very closely guarded, and rumours about him needed to be regarded with considerable skepticism, Russel said.

The rumours had, however, served to focus attention on North Korea’s succession plan, which ‘in a monarchical and cult-like dictatorship is filled with risk, and the absence of a designated adult heir compounds that risk many times over,’ Russel said.

Earlier, a source familiar with US intelligence analyses and reporting said US agencies believed Kim was not ill and remained very much in power.

‘We think he’s still in charge,’ the source said on condition of anonymity. The source could not immediately confirm the KCNA report. The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kim 'attended the ceremony' on Friday and 'all participants broke into thunderous cheers of 'hurrah!' when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. Pictured is an image shared by the agency on Saturday

Kim ‘attended the ceremony’ on Friday and ‘all participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. Pictured is an image shared by the agency on Saturday

South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul, who oversees engagement with Pyongyang, said it was plausible Kim was absent as a precaution over the coronavirus pandemic, in view of the stringent steps taken to head off an outbreak in the country.

Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean studies at the Center for the National Interest think tank in Washington, said this still could be the case.

He said: ‘The most likely explanation for Kim’s absence is with North Korea declaring the coronavirus pandemic an existential threat… he most likely was taking steps to ensure his health or may have been impacted in some way personally by the virus.’

In his appearance at the fertiliser factory, Kim expressed satisfaction about the production system and said the plant made a significant contribution to the progress of the country’s chemical industry and food production, KCNA said.

Memes surfaced across social media in the West today in response to the report that the dictator has been out and about.

This image released by Korean Central News Agency supposedly shows Kim Jong-un (centre) attending the ceremony next to his sister (pictured third from left) and other senior officials on Friday

This image released by Korean Central News Agency supposedly shows Kim Jong-un (centre) attending the ceremony next to his sister (pictured third from left) and other senior officials on Friday

This picture from state media supposedly shows the mass celebrations as Kim opened the fertiliser factory in Sunchon

This picture from state media supposedly shows the mass celebrations as Kim opened the fertiliser factory in Sunchon

One said ‘Kim Jong-un with the best comeback of 2020’, while another posted a picture comparing the dictator to the wrestler the Undertaker. A man wrote ‘so Kim Jong-un is alive and well’ above a picture of Spiderman looking unsure.

Kim Jong-un’s last known movements 

April 11 – The dictator presides over a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party committee of policymakers. His most recent public appearance

April 15 – Kim is absent from celebrations for North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung

April 21 – First reports surface claiming the dictator has received heart surgery from South Korean-based publication Daily NK

April 23 – Kim’s private train is spotted near his holiday resort in Wonsan on satellite images. It is at a station reserved for use by the Kim family, prompting rumours that he has travelled to the destination

April 23 – Chinese doctors reportedly arrive in North Korea around this time to treat the dictator. China is yet to confirm or deny the reports

May 1 – Pictures emerge of the dictator apparently at a fertiliser factory in Sunchon with his sister

While another added ‘North Korean state media release photo of Kim Jong-un’ with a picture a man being held up by two others.

The news appears to fly in the face of a report earlier on Friday from a North Korean defector claiming he was ’99 per cent sure’ Kim was dead.

Ji Seong-ho claimed to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency he had been ‘told Kim died last weekend’ after cardiovascular surgery.

The defector said Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong was in line to succeed her brother but said the secretive state was ‘grappling with a complicated succession issue’. State-controlled media in North Korea had not provided any definitive proof Kim was alive.

But there was a sign of life earlier on Friday as Daily NK reported the regime had issued a directive signed by Kim himself, the first in two weeks.

Ji, a defector who was elected to the South’s parliament earlier this year, is the latest to suggest Kim might have died after heart surgery.

‘I’ve wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery. I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend,’ he said.

‘It is not 100 per cent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 per cent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue.’

Pyongyang has never made any succession plans public, but experts say Kim’s sister has been the most visible presence around the dictator in recent years.

Kim (pictured) expressed satisfaction about the production system of the fertiliser factory, saying the plant made significant contribution for the progress of the country's chemical industry and food production, KCNA said

Kim (pictured) expressed satisfaction about the production system of the fertiliser factory, saying the plant made significant contribution for the progress of the country’s chemical industry and food production, KCNA said

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center right, his wife Ri Sol Ju, right, Chinese President Xi Jinping, centre left, and his wife Peng Liyuan taken on June 20, 2019 

She was named an alternate member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee Politburo last month.

North Korea is the world’s most secretive country and reports about Kim and his family, including the suggestion he recently had heart surgery, are nearly impossible to verify.

But other defectors have cast doubt on whether such sensitive information would ever leak out from Kim’s inner circle.

Some defectors say their relatives in North Korea did not know Kim had been missing from public view for three weeks.  

One said people had been talking about Kim’s whereabouts in very private circles after he failed to appear at the ruling party showpiece on April 15.

Kim’s unprecedented absence from the Day of the Sun ceremony honouring his grandfather prompted the major speculation about his welfare.

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

South Korean people watch a TV broadcasting a news report on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Seoul, South Korea, April 21. China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation

Defector Lee Soon-hee said: ‘I talked to my sister and my niece this morning and they had no clue about these reports and rumours about Kim Jong Un’s health.

‘When I told them, they were so cautious about discussing it. North Koreans have a very limited knowledge of these things.’ Lee defected to the South in 2009.

North Koreans are keenly aware they could face punishment for discussing the Kim family, said Sokeel Park, of Liberty in North Korea, a group that works with defectors.

Who could take over the reigns of power from Kim Jong-un when he dies?

Kim Yo-jong, dictator’s sister

The dictator’s sister has been widely tipped as a likely successor. However, much about her remains a mystery.

‘Among the North’s power elite, she has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that is possibly more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst told the Associated Press. 

Her age is unclear, though she’s believed to be in her 30s and a few year’s younger than her 36-year-old brother.

She’s kept a low profile, only making her first public statement last month in which she mocked South Korea as a ‘frightened dog barking’ after the country protested against a live fire military exercise.

She also has a reputation for aggressively pushing North Korean propaganda and, in 2017, was blacklisted by the US Treaasury Department.  

Ri Pyong-chol, top general and related to Kim’s wife

The general has also been listed as a possible successor.

As supervisor of the country’s ballistic missile program, he has the credentials to command the military, the ultimate power-brokers inside the country.

He is also seen as a credible heir to Kim Jong Un’s ambitions, and could be regarded as offering a balance between the hard-liners and Kim dynasty.

He also holds a high position in the Worker’s Party of Korea.

Other possible successors include Ri Yong-ho, foreign minister, Kim Yong-chol, top diplomat, and No Kwang-chol, defence minister.

He said: ‘That doesn’t mean people don’t take that risk, some people do. But it’s still a super sensitive issue. It’s a little like the pope not showing up for Christmas,’ he said of Kim’s absence from the April 15 celebrations.

South Korean officials say they have not detected any ‘unusual movements’ north of the demilitarised zone.

The South’s minister in charge of North Korean affairs said on Tuesday fear of coronavirus could have kept Kim away from the April 15 ceremony.

President Trump said yesterday: ‘I understand what is going on, I cannot just talk about him right now, just hoping that everything will be fine. But I do understand the situation very well’.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has said he was aware of reports on Kim’s health and was paying close attention to developments.

Still, experts said it was strange North Korea had not quickly release a picture of a healthy-looking Kim if there was no truth to the rumours.

Official media has not provided any verifiable proof of life since April 11, other than reporting he had sent messages to North Korean workers and to South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa and the pictures of him in Sunchon.

Another defector-turned-politician, Thae Yong-ho, warned only a small handful of people would know the full story.

He also cautioned clues about Kim’s whereabouts – such as an apparent sighting of his personal train in the city of Wonsan – could be deliberate diversion tactics.

Pyongyang officials know the train can be seen from satellites and have previously sent it around the country to confuse outsiders, Thae said.

The sighting of the train was followed by further satellite images from Wonsan showing boats often used by Kim and his entourage.

North Korea has never announced who would succeed Kim Jong Un in the event he is incapacitated and with no details known about his young children, analysts say his sister and loyalists could form a regency until a successor is old enough to take over.

Each change at the top in North Korea has raised the prospect of a leadership vacuum or collapse of the Kim dynasty, which has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.

So far, each of the three Kims to rule North Korea has defied expectations, holding on to power with an iron grip.

But under Kim Jong Un, North Korea’s arsenal of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles has grown substantially, raising concerns over who would control them.

US President Donald Trump and North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019

US President Donald Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un stand on North Korean soil while walking to South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone on June 30, 2019 

In the event of any leadership transition, Kim Jong Un’s younger sister Kim Yo Jong is likely to play a central part.

In the past two years, Yo Jong has risen quickly through North Korea’s leadership hierarchy, serving officially as a vice director of the Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee, but also unofficially as her brother’s chief of staff.

Kim Yo Jong, who is believed to be 31, has a firm control of key party functions, setting herself to be the main source of power behind a collective leadership.

She has regularly been observed at her brother’s side, leading South Korean Media to dub her the ‘Ivanka Trump of North Korea’.

‘Kim Yo Jong will be for the time being the main power base with control of the organisation and guidance department, the judiciary and public security,’ said Cho Han-bum of the Korea Institute for National Unification, a government-funded think-tank in Seoul.

Experts have suggested that Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong (pictured together in Pyongyang in September 2018) could be in line to succeed her brother if necessary

Experts have suggested that Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong (pictured together in Pyongyang in September 2018) could be in line to succeed her brother if necessary 

Still, relatively little is known of of Kim Yo Jong. The dictator’s younger sibling has routinely kept a low profile, having only made her first public statement last month, in which she mocked South Korea as being a ‘frightening dog barking’, for opposing a live-fire military demonstration.

But sources say Yo Jong’s work behind the scenes suggests she would rule with the same iron-fist as her predecessors, should she be announced leader, temporarily or otherwise.

Along with several other North Korean officials, Kim Yo Jong was blacklisted by the US Treasury Department for ‘severe human rights abuses’ in 2017.

She also incurred a reputation for her aggressive propaganda pushing, regarded a one of the main officials who worked to enact ‘rigid censorship policies and conceals its inhumane and oppressive behavior’.

‘Among the North’s power elite, Kim Yo Jong has the highest chance to inherit power, and I think that possibility is more than 90 per cent,’ an analyst said.

Yo Jong first began working in the ruling party in 2007, but in the last few years she has ‘gotten a lot more serious’ about the role she’s playing, government consultant Michael Madden told the New Yorker.

‘When you see footage of her on the receiving lines, she is smiling, a nice friendly young woman, but when she is out of those lines, the smile vanishes and she even looks like Kim Jong Il,’ Madden remarked.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un pictured on December 4, 2019. The trip by the Chinese doctors and officials comes amid conflicting reports about the health of the North Korean leader

Should she be announced as ruler, Yo Jong would become North Korea’s first female leader since her Grandfather Kim Il-Sung founded the nation in 1948. 

In the event of Kim Jong Un’s death, party Elders Choe Ryong Hae and Pak Pong Ju would likely find themselves at Yo Jong’s side, helping to weather any leadership storm.

Ryong Hae was announced as North Korea’s nominal head of state last when he rose to become president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, following decades of service within the party for the ruing Kim family.

Choe and Pak Pong Ju, a fellow politburo member and former state premier who oversaw the North’s push to introduce more free-market functions to revive its economy, are likely to be the figureheads leading a collective leadership, analysts say.

Unlikely to emerge as a major presence is Kim Jong Un’s estranged older brother, Kim Jong Chol, who has not been a part of the country’s leadership instead opting for a quite life away from politics playing music.

Though according to North Korea’s former deputy ambassador in London, who has since defected to the South, Jong Chol does maintain ties with his siblings and could play a more public role in any contingency plans.

Kim Jong Un is believed to have three children with Ri Sol Ju, the youngest born in 2017, according to the South’s National Intelligence Service.

The oldest is a 10-year-old son, meaning any of the three would need the assistance of their relatives or political guardians if they were to become a fourth-generation hereditary leader.

Kim Jong Il had been groomed for 20 years to lead the country, while Kim Jong Un had just over a year to prepare, due to his father’s sudden death from a heart attack.

This social media user found inspiration for Kim's reappearance from the 55-year-old WWE Wrestler Mark William Calaway, better known as The Undertaker, who makes a dramatic entrance to the ring

This social media user found inspiration for Kim’s reappearance from the 55-year-old WWE Wrestler Mark William Calaway, better known as The Undertaker, who makes a dramatic entrance to the ring 

Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said: ‘Kim Yo Jong is unlikely to take over the helm but could help build a caretaker regime as a power broker until the kids grow up, and Kim Jong Chol might return to help for a while.’

This is not the first time Kim has disappeared from the public eye. In 2014, Kim was not seen for 40 days, before he reemerged appearing to walk with a limp and using a cane, after he reportedly suffered from an ankle problem.

His father Kim Jong-il disappeared from view for months in 2008, prompting speculation that he had a stroke. A French doctor later confirmed the reports, and the then leader died three years later.

But North Korea’s ruling elite have vanished from the spotlight before prompting rumors of their death only to re-emerge seemingly unscathed.

In 2015 it was claimed by a North Korean defector Kim ordered his own aunt to be killed by poison. The aunt, Kim Kyong-hui, re-appeared smiling in January.

A delegation led by a senior member of the Chinese Communist Party’s International Liaison Department left Beijing for North Korea last month, two of the people said. The department is the main Chinese body dealing with neighbouring North Korea.

Others compared Kim Jong-un's reappearance like the resurrection of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones

Others compared Kim Jong-un’s reappearance like the resurrection of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones 

Daily NK, a Seoul-based website, reported earlier last month Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12. It cited one unnamed source in North Korea.

South Korean government officials and a Chinese official with the Liaison Department challenged subsequent reports suggesting Kim was in grave danger after surgery. South Korean officials said they had detected no signs of unusual activity in North Korea.

North Korea is one of the world’s most isolated and secretive countries, and the health of its leaders is treated as a matter of state security. Reuters has not been able to independently confirm any details on Kim’s whereabouts or condition.

North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11. State media did not report he was in attendance at an event to mark the birthday of his grandfather – an important anniversary in North Korea.

Kim, believed to be 36, has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before. In 2014, he vanished for more than a month and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp.

Speculation about his health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.

When Kim Jong Un’s father Kim Jong Il suffered a stroke in 2008, South Korean media reported at the time that Chinese doctors were involved in his treatment along with French physicians.

Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping made the first state visit in 14 years by a Chinese leader to North Korea, an impoverished state that depends on Beijing for economic and diplomatic support.

Another users suggested those who predicted Kim's death should now be very worried

Another users suggested those who predicted Kim’s death should now be very worried 

China is North Korea’s chief ally and the economic lifeline for a country hard-hit by U.N. sanctions, and has a keen interest in the stability of the country with which it shares a long, porous border.

Kim is a third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011 from a heart attack. He has visited China four times since 2018.

Trump held unprecedented summits with Kim in 2018 and 2019 as part of a bid to persuade him to give up North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.

‘The North Korean version of Undertaker’: Internet reacts to claims Kim Jong-un is alive after photos of dictator are released for the first time in 20 days following rumours he had died

ByDarren Boyle for MailOnline

Twitter users rejoiced following the return to public life of North Korean despot Kim Jong-un. 

Several reports from the hermit state suggested Kim, who is believed to be in his late 30s, could have undergone major surgery or even possibly died.  

He had not been seen in public since April 11 and missed the national celebrations for his grandfather and founder of North Korea, Kim Il Sung on April 15. 

However, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA released photographs of a smiling Kim inspecting a fertiliser plant outside Pyongyang. 

The report said Kim cut a ribbon as the crowd ‘burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader…’. 

Twitter users questioned the authenticity of the photographs, with memes ripped from The Simpsons and Weekend at Bernies.  

One twitter user posted a publicity shot from the 1989 buddy movie Weekend at Bernie's which involves two friends carrying around body of their dead boss pretending he was still alive

One twitter user posted a publicity shot from the 1989 buddy movie Weekend at Bernie’s which involves two friends carrying around body of their dead boss pretending he was still alive

Another comedy fan used a Simpsons meme where a patient's condition is upgraded from 'dead' to 'alive' after being transferred to a better hospital

This user found inspiration from the 55-year-old WWE Wrestler Mark William Calaway, better known as The Undertaker ,who makes a dramatic entrance to the ring

Another comedy fan used a Simpsons meme where a patient’s condition is upgraded from ‘dead’ to ‘alive’ after being transferred to a better hospital, while another used an image of WWE wrestler The Undertaker

Kim was seen in photographs smiling and talking to aides at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and also touring the plant. The authenticity of the photos, published on the website of the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, could not be verified.

Many in the large crowd of people, described as officials of the army, the ruling party and the community who worked on the project, were wearing face masks and standing some distance from the podium where Kim and his aides took part in the ceremony.

North Korea has not reported any cases of the coronavirus and has said it has been taking tough measures to prevent an outbreak. One reason for Kim’s absence has been the suggestion he may have been taking precautions against coronavirus.

Kim was accompanied by senior North Korean officials, including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong and top aides vice-chairman Pak Pong Ju of the State Affairs Commission and cabinet premier Kim Jae Ryong, and KCNA said.

This twitter user predicts Kim Jong-un will seek retribution on those who claimed he had died

This twitter user predicts Kim Jong-un will seek retribution on those who claimed he had died

This social media wag posted an image of a man in an iron lung which was previously used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis

This person appears to be sceptical about the announcement from North Korea

This social media wag posted an image of a man in an iron lung which was previously used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis 

Asked about the KCNA report on Kim, U.S. President Donald Trump said: ‘I’d rather not comment on it yet.’

‘We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time,’ he told reporters at the White House. 

Speculation about Kim’s health has been rife after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of state founder Kim Il Sung on April 15. The day is a major holiday in North Korea and Kim as leader usually pays a visit to the mausoleum where his grandfather lies in state.

This person appears to be sceptical about the announcement from North Korea

This person appears to be sceptical about the announcement from North Korea 

This social media wag posted an image of a man in an iron lung which was previously used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis

This social media wag posted an image of a man in an iron lung which was previously used to treat patients suffering from tuberculosis 

He last made a public appearance on April 11 attending a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party politburo.

Following his absence from the anniversary, a South Korean news outlet specialising on the North reported that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure. A flurry of other unconfirmed reports about his condition and his whereabouts followed.

Officials in South Korea and the United States expressed scepticism about the reports.

State TV footage on Saturday showed Kim’s leg movements appearing stiff and jerky and one of the images showed a green golf cart in the background, similar to one he used in 2014 after a lengthy public absence.  

North Korea fires gunshots towards South Korea


BREAKING NEWS: North Korea fires gunshots towards South Korea

  • South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement that North Korea had fired a series of gunshots towards the country early Sunday 
  • The shots were fired towards a guard post in South Korea
  • South Korea said it responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea 
  • The South said it is taking action to try to ‘grasp the detailed situation’ 
  • News of the attack came just one day after North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un resurfaced amid escalating reports he had died  

North Korea fired multiple gunshots towards South Korea early Sunday morning, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs (JCS) said in a statement. 

Gunfire broke out between the two nations when North Korea fired a series of shots towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North at 7:41 am local time, the JCS said.

News of the attack came just one day after North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un resurfaced amid escalating reports he had died. 

South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un on May 1 when he resurfaced following reports he had died. North Korea has fired multiple gunshots towards South Korea, the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement

The South is taking action to try to ‘grasp the detailed situation’, it said.

‘We are taking actions via inter-Korean communication lines to grasp the detailed situation and to prevent any further incidents,’ the JCS statement read.

‘And we also maintain a necessary readiness posture.’  

It is not clear why the gunfire erupted, but no injuries have been reported on either side. 

The two nations regularly open fire on each other and technically remain in a constant state of war after the Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

Both sides have troops poised along the 155-mile border ready to open fire on the other side at any point.  

Increased tensions between the two nations comes as Kim Jong-Un was seen for the first time in three weeks on Friday. 

Speculation concerning the controversial leader’s health began to gain momentum after he failed to turn up at the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 13, one of the country’s biggest calendar events. 

A watch tower in North Korea pictured in 2017: A series of gunshots were fired from North Korea at 7:41 am local time towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North, the JCS said

A watch tower in North Korea pictured in 2017: A series of gunshots were fired from North Korea at 7:41 am local time towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the North, the JCS said

North Korea soldiers near the border in 2017: South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said

North Korea soldiers near the border in 2017: South Korea responded by firing two shots back towards North Korea, the JCS said

Rumors and reports grew that he had died.  

But North Korea’s supreme leader then emerged alive, as he was pictured cutting the ribbon at the opening of a fertilizer factory Friday.

He ‘attended the ceremony’ at the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory on Friday and ‘all the participants broke into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!” when he appeared, the Korean Central News Agency said. 

The dictator was seen smiling and talking to aides at the ceremony and also touring the plant, but the authenticity of the photos could not be verified.

He was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials including his younger sister Kim Yo Jong, Korean Central News Agency said.

There continues to be speculation over why he has not been seen in such a long time, including that he had complications after heart surgery or was suffering from the coronavirus. 

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed wire fence in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea

South Korean soldiers patrol along a barbed wire fence in the demilitarized zone separating North and South Korea

According to medical experts who viewed footage of the dictator’s return, Kim Jong-un’s wrist suggests he could have had heart surgery. 

US-funded NK News reported that marks on Kim’s arms show he has had a ‘cardiovascular procedure’. 

What appeared to be needle marks could be seen on his wrists while he rode in a golf cart that looked a lot like the one he used in 2014, when he returned to the public eye with a cane after some time away.

Kim has not been seen with marks on his wrists before. 

President Donald Trump celebrated the dictator’s apparent return to the public eye in a social media post Saturday, stating he is glad to see him back in good health after rumors he had died.

The president retweeted pictures of Kim at the fertilizer factory and wrote: ‘I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!’ 

It is unclear whether the White House has authenticated the pictures released by North Korean state media.