North Korea defector 99% sure Kim Jong-un is dead and sister will take control

South Korean lawmaker Ji Seong-ho, who escaped North Korea, says he was informed that Kim Jong-un died a week ago and Pyongyang may announce this weekend that the dictator is dead

North Korea defector 99% sure Kim Jong-un is dead and sister will take control

A North Korea defector who recently became a lawmaker in South Korea says he is "99 per cent" sure Kim Jong-un is dead. Ji Seong-ho believes Pyongyang may announce this weekend that the dictator has died and a successor - likely Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong - has been chosen.

Amid unverified claims that Kim was dead, in a vegetative state, "gravely" ill or recovering after undergoing heart surgery, the lawmaker said he was informed that Kim died last weekend after undergoing a cardiovascular operation. North Korea has held off on confirming its leader's demise and announcing a period of mourning because it is "grappling with a complicated succession issue", he added.

Kim hasn't been seen in public since April 11 - almost three weeks ago - when he oversaw a Politburo meeting. It was claimed he underwent heart surgery the following day. Satellite images show a train parked at the "leadership station" in the coastal resort of Wonsan for more than a week - suggesting that Kim may be at his luxury compound - but North Korea watchers have cautioned that it could be a diversion tactic.

 

It has also been suggested that Kim may have left Pyongyang to avoid coronavirus, after people close to him caught the killer bug, and is "alive and well".

But there have been signs that Kim isn't making leadership decisions and North Korea has stopped trying to silence the rapid spread of rumours that he has died or is in poor health. Ji, who won a proportional representation seat in South Korea's elections on April 15, told Yonhap News Agency: "I've wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery.

 

"I've been informed that Kim died last weekend."

He added: "It is not 100 per cent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 per cent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue."

Ji said an announcement could come this weekend and Kim's sister is likely to succeed him. He did not reveal the source of his information. Claims about Kim or North Korea's activities are almost impossible to verify due to the country's secrecy and isolation. The deaths of Pyongyang's only two previous leaders - Kim's grandfather Kim Il-sung, the country's founder, and father Kim Jong-il - were announced by state media two days after they had died, triggering mourning periods.