Kim had ankle surgery: source

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Kim had ankle surgery: source

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had surgery on his ankles a month ago and is in the process of recovery at a private estate north of Pyongyang, a North Korea source told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday.

South Korean and U.S. authorities have determined that Kim, who disappeared from the public eye 39 days ago, is currently undergoing physical rehabilitation at an estate on Mount Jamo in Sunchon County, South Pyongan Province, and that there are no signs that his rule is under threat.

“In the middle of last month, Kim Jong-un received surgery on both ankles from a French doctor at the Bonghwa Clinic in Pyongyang,” a key North Korea source told the JoongAng Ilbo in Seoul, “as well as treatment for edema and blisters on the bottom of his feet.”

The source added that “a fairly reliable analysis was made based on the movement of a foreign doctor’s visit to North Korea at that time and a large number of vehicles gathered at the Bonghwa Clinic.”

The source added, “It is our conclusion that there is no evidence of [Kim Jong-un] being dead or in a critical condition as some rumors claim. Likewise, there is no intelligence that he was treated for any more serious illness than [ankle and feet] surgeries.”

The source added that Kim’s wife Ri Sol-ju and younger sister Kim Yo-jong are with him at the estate on Mount Jamo.

Kim missed a celebration of the 69th anniversary of the founding of the North’s Workers’ Party Friday, sparking rampant speculation on the possible causes for his disappearance over the past five weeks.

Another North Korea source said in regards to Kim, “He is wearing a cast following his surgery and it appears he didn’t want to show that to the world.”

Kim’s estate on Mount Jamo has a supreme command underground bunker, so he’s not isolated from the levers of power. “There doesn’t appear to be any concern in regards to a military takeover,” the source said.

To discern if there is any emergency in ruling circles in North Korea, foreign analyst generally look to see if there has been an installation of barricades or a restriction of access to major bridges in Pyongyang, any urgent mobilization of armed forces, dispatches of medical personnel or ambulances and increases in the number of Kim Jong-un’s personal bodyguards. Other indicators include unusual activity in military wire traffic, which could include increased or decreased radio traffic, as well as special monitoring of air bases.

The source added that Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so and other key military officials and aides are visiting Kim at his estate and receiving orders from him directly.

The North’s official Rodong Sinmun yesterday published a page one article praising the North Korean leader’s grandfather, founding leader Kim Il Sung, and his father, Kim Jong-il. It also urged success for Kim Jong-un’s projects.



BY LEE YOUNG-JONG [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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