NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-un may have been replaced by his sister Kim Yo-jong amid reports he is suffering from a mystery illness and has not been seen in public for months. The 31-year-old is reported to be suffering a number of ailments, partly stemming from being significantly overweight.
The Diplomat news magazine cited a report from a South- Korean think-tank which said the regime leader has failed to appear at any official events since early September.
In his absence, Kim Yo-jong, 27, is charged with handling important government decisions.
The magazine said the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea met on 6 September at Kim Yo-jong’s suggestion.
As a result, Pyongyang decided four things. First, to give special and extended medical treatment to Kim Jong-un in order to restore his health quickly.
Second, all North Korean high level officials and party members should be responsible in following Kim’s previous orders.
Third, the party and army should be on wartime-like alert while Kim Jong-un is out of commission.
And lastly, all the important matters related to government administration should be reported to Kim Yo-jong, so that Kim Jong-un can concentrate on getting better.
It is not clear what her role was before reportedly becoming the country’s stand-in leader, but she has been spotted in recent official regime photos and has been described as a “senior official”.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency recently reported that Kim Jong-un is suffering from gout, while tabloid newspapers have claimed he is addicted to Swiss cheese and has ballooned in size to around 20 stone.
Such a prolonged absence suggests the illness could be more serious.
State media acknowledged for the first time last month that Kim Jong-un, who assumed power in North Korea when his father died in 2011, was suffering from “discomfort” due to unspecified health reasons.
Medical treatment for North Korea’s leaders is a closely guarded secret, with widespread rumours and reports of top Western doctors being smuggled into the closed Communist state.
In 1993, French neurosurgeon Francois-Xavier Roux received a phone call in Paris from an unidentified North Korean official after the then leader-in-waiting, Kim Jong Il, had suffered a head injury from a horse-riding accident.
He was called again 15 years later when the former leader was critically ill in an intensive care unit.