North Korean defectors apologise after making ‘false claims’ about Kim Jong-un’s death


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A former senior North Korean diplomat has apologised after saying Kim Jong-un was probably so ill he could not stand, days before he was seen at an event attended by hundreds of officials.
Concerns about Kim’s health emerged when he disappeared from state media for three weeks.
High-profile defectors from the country suggested that Kim was suffering from a grave illness or could be even dead, but North Korean media put the rumours to bed on Saturday.
The state news agency KCNA released pictures showing Kim cutting a ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon with other senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong.
It was Kim’s first reported public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a ruling Workers’ Party meeting to discuss the coronavirus.
His re-emergence came as a blow to the credibility of some high-profile defectors from North Korea, who speculated that Kim was suffering from a “grave illness”.
One of the defectors, Tha Yong-Ho, was North Korea’s ambassador to Britain, where he managed secret funds for Kim, Reuters reports.
He said in a statement: “I am aware that one of the reasons why many of you voted for me as a lawmaker is with the expectations of an accurate analysis and projections on North Korean issues.
“I feel the blame and heavy responsibility. Whatever the reasons, I apologise to everyone.”
Another defector elected to Parliament, Ji Seong-ho, said in a media interview that he was 99 per cent certain that Kim had died after cardiovascular surgery and an official announcement would come as soon as Saturday.
“I have pondered on myself for the past few days, and felt the weight of the position that I’m in,” said Ji in a statement.
“As a public figure, I will behave carefully going forward.”
In 2014, Kim vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks and then reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.
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Slide 1 of 13: Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, attends wreath laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, March 2, 2019. (Photo by JORGE SILVA / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read JORGE SILVA/AFP via Getty Images)
1/13 SLIDES © Jorge Silva/AFP/Getty Images
Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, visited South Korea for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, becoming the first person from North Korea’s ruling family to do so. Her visit made headlines around the world, as it was a significant diplomatic encounter between the two nations. Here’s what little we know about her.
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