NORTH Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is in a coma and is preparing to hand over powers to his sister, an ex-diplomat has sensationally claimed.
The dictator has been out of the public eye for a while, causing rumours of his death following reports that he collapsed and had undergone emergency heart surgery on April 12.
Why is Kim Jong-un in a coma?
It has been reported that North Korea's dictator is in a coma, after a rogue few months out of the public eye.
An ex-aide to late-South Korean president Kim Dae-jung believes the state is hiding the truth about their leader's health.
Speaking with local media, Chang Song-min said: “I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended.”
He spoke as North Korea reportedly handed over some powers to the dictator's sister Kim Yo-jong, 33.
Chang added: “A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period.”
The reason for him being in a coma is not known.
When was Kim Jong-un last seen in public?
Pictures emerged on Wednesday 19 August, showing Kim Jong-un attending a government meeting – for the first time in months.
Yet news outlet Reuters said it could not “independently verify” the images as they were released by the secretive country.
Before this, Kim had not been seen in public since May 1, which initially sparked international rumours that he had died.
There have also been reports that his low profile this year is down to Kim shielding himself during the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19.
What were the rumours around Kim Jong-un's death?
There was speculation this year that Kim had died or was in a vegetative state as he failed to appear at an important celebration on April 15, to mark the birthday of Kim Il-sung, his grandfather and the founder of the country.
Some reports, attributed to senior party sources in Beijing, said Kim had died after the Chinese medical team arrived too late to save him following failed heart surgery on April 12.
However, on May 1 he made a public appearance alongside his sister Kim Yo-jong, who had been tipped to succeed him.
He was pictured cutting a ribbon and speaking to officials at the completion ceremony of the Suncheon Fertilizer Plant, the Korean Central News Agency reports.
The dictator made a short speech after inaugurating the facility according to KCNA.
He said: “When the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Manufacturing Plant goes into operation, it will represent a historical development in our country's fertilizer industry, it will be a glorious revolution and a splendid display of our nation's great economic potential, and it will be an uplifting banner that assures us of the achievements of our country's general economic frontline.”
The report said that Kim "expressed satisfaction about the wonderful creation" and congratulated workers from Kim Chaek University of Technology, "repeatedly stressing that talents are a great source and a motive power of the development of the country."
Foreign intelligence services now think he had actually been hiding from the coronavirus pandemic in a secure luxury compound.
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