herald

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Kim Jong had operation to remove ankle cyst

Speculation is growing about the health of Kim Jong Un
Speculation is growing about the health of Kim Jong Un

South Korea's spy agency has said it has solved the mystery of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's six-week public absence, which set off a frenzy of wild speculation around the world.

The National Intelligence Service told legislators that a foreign doctor operated on Mr Kim in September or October to remove a cyst from his right ankle, according to Park Byeong-seok, an aide for opposition politician Shin Kyung-min.

The aide said the spy agency also told legislators that the cyst could recur because of Mr Kim's obesity, smoking and heavy schedule.

After last being seen in state media on September 3, Mr Kim reappeared on October 14 hobbling with a cane, but smiling and looking thinner.

The speculation during his absence was particularly intense because of the Kim family's importance to impoverished, nuclear-armed North Korea. The family has ruled the country since its founding in 1948.

It was not immediately clear how the information was obtained by the spy agency, which has a spotty track record of analysing developments.

The agency also said North Korea has expanded five of its political prisoner camps.

He said the agency also believes that North Korea recently used a firing squad to execute several people who had been close to Kim Jong Un's uncle, Jang Song Thaek, who was considered the country's number two power before his sudden purge in 2013.

dismissed

In an intelligence success, South Korea's spy agency correctly said Mr Jang had likely been dismissed from his posts before North Korea officially announced his arrest.

However, it received heavy criticism when its director acknowledged that it had ignored intelligence indicating North Korea's impending shelling of a South Korean island in 2010.

hnews@herald.ie

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