In early September, rumors have been around that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un was not feeling well. Kim has not been seen in public for more than a month since he was last seen by the media at a concert with his wife on 3rd September. He didn’t show up at the important political anniversary and other national events afterwards. While he disappeared from the public view, rumors have swirled among analysts. A report from a British newspaper, Daily Mail, suggested that Kim Jong-un had undergone surgery to reduce stomach because Kim had fallen in love with Emmental Swiss cheese, which made him gained weight and eventually developed health problems. As he was seen walking with a limp from the media, analysts speculated that he was suffering from gout or arthritis in addition to his obesity. Rumors of coup as well as his health problems have emerged. Further speculation was fueled about whether he has lost his grip on power.
White house showed negative reactions on these rumors. Patrick Ventrell, a spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, said the U.S had been monitoring the reports about Kim Jong-un’s health problems. Patrick said, “Given that the (North Korean) regime is the most opaque on earth, it’s not surprising that there is very little reliable and publicly available information about this. Regarding rumors of a coup, as we have said previously, those appear to be false.”
While all kinds of suspicion and speculation about Kim Jong-un ran rampant, Kim finally showed up at the official meeting after 6 weeks of absence. His reappearance after long absence tamped down the rumor of his health problems. One fact that we should focus on is that he was walking with the help of a cane. Lim Byeong Cheol, a spokesman from Seoul’s Unification Ministry, stated that Kim Jong-un tried to show that he is doing fine even though he’s indeed still having some discomfort.
North Korea’s mysterious behaviors continued. Top North Korean officials visited South Korea as a surprise for a sporting event and had highest-level talks in years. Also, Kim Jong-un ordered a release of Mr. Fowle, who was arrested as he tried to leave North Korea after leaving a bible behind. Kim stated that he had considered President Obama’s release request. The most remarkable change of its stance is that North Korea considers resuming the six-party talks on its nuclear program. Diplomatic charm offensives that North Korea has recently showed arose strong curiosity among international society.
How should we interpret these events: Kim’s return with a cane after long absence, North Korea’s sudden change of its stance on relations with major states and even on nuclear weapons? Are there any hidden motives behind or is North Korea seeking a genuine change in its relations with the world?