North Korean leader Kim-Jong Un is reportedly handing over a significant portion of his power to his sister, Kim Yo Jong amid rumors that he might be in a coma. Numerous media sources have reported on the power transfer, but only the Mirror has reported on the leader’s potential coma. The site quoted Chang Song-min, the former aide to South Korea’s late president Kim Dae-Jung, who reportedly told South Korean media that Kim-Jong Un is in a coma, and that this is the first step in creating a succession of power.
Earlier this week, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) announced Jong-un will still “exert absolute power” but he will gradually transfer his authority to Kim Yo-Jong “to ease stress.”
Most of the reports about the leader’s grave condition have come from news sources in South Korea and Japan, but North Korean sources have insisted that these are nothing but rumors.
Kim-Jong Un was last seen in public at the beginning of May, for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the opening of a fertilizer factory. However, he has not been seen in public since.
The media in North Korea entirely revolves around Kim, and it is very rare for him to disappear from public life like this, but it has happened on rare occasions before. In 2014, the leader disappeared for more than a month before returning in later footage where he was walking with a limp.
For months there has been speculation in the media that the leader could be dead or in very poor health, and in this time his sister has started to have a more public role in the North Korean government.
She received her first official mention in state media in March 2014, when she accompanied her brother in voting for the Supreme People’s Assembly. She was named as a “senior official” of the WPK Central Committee. In October 2014, she was reported to have taken over state duties for her ailing brother while he underwent medical treatment. The next month, she was appointed as First Deputy Director of the party’s Propaganda and Agitation Department.
The political and economic situation in North Korea appears to be deteriorating as well. According to numerous recent reports, the North Korean government has ordered the confiscation of pet dogs in response to a massive food shortage brought on by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Things were already very difficult for the country due to economic sanctions from the west, but the coronavirus pandemic and resulting restrictions significantly impacted their trade with China, who was one of their most significant trade partners. It has been reported that the North Korean government intends to kill the animals that are confiscated so they can be used for their meat.
According to the United Nations, things are currently so bad in North Korea that many families are starving and some can only afford one meal a day.
An estimated 10 million North Koreans or 40% of its population are facing malnutrition, UN spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs said at a recent press conference in Geneva.