A baffling photo of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has emerged after speculation the dictator was in a coma.
The photo of him wearing a white coat at a meeting of a North Korean committee issuing warnings about the coronavirus and looming typhoon was revealed on Wednesday.
Rumours were swirling that Kim was in a coma earlier this week as his health continued to fail.
The dictator has rarely been pictured this year and was feared to have died in April after an alleged “botched” heart operation.
Kim, 36, had reportedly handed over some powers to his sister on August 21, with Change Song-min, a former aide to South Korea’s late president Kim Dae-jung, telling local media outlets Kim was “in a coma, but his life has not ended”.
Pictures in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper showed Kim addressing the meeting, wearing a white suit and in one image apparently smoking a cigarette.
Just days ago Change Song-min claimed the leader’s 33-year-old sister Kim Yo-kong would take over Kim’s role while he was absent.
The speculation followed fears for Kim’s health back in April after he was absent from a key public event marking the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather.
Daily NK reported at the time Kim’s health had deteriorated in recent months due to heavy smoking, obesity and overwork.
“My understanding is that he had been struggling (with cardiovascular problems) since last August but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu," a source was quoted as saying, referring to the country's sacred mountain.
Just days after speculation surrounding his health in April, satellite images emerged pointing to his whereabouts.
A train likely belonging to Kim was spotted at a resort town in North Korea’s east, parked at a station reserved for the Kim family.
Moon Chung-in, the top foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told CNN Kim was “alive and well”.
Pandemic puts additional pressure on North Korea
Kim has called for prevention efforts against the novel coronavirus and a typhoon, state news agency KCNA said on Wednesday.
An enlarged meeting of the politburo of the Workers Party took place amid the pandemic that is putting additional pressure on the North Korean economy, battered by recent border closures and flood damage.
The meeting assessed "some defects in the state emergency anti-epidemic work for checking the inroads of the malignant virus", KCNA said in a statement.
North Korea has not reported any confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, but Kim said last month that the virus "could be said to have entered" the country and imposed a lockdown after a man was reported to have symptoms.
Later test results on the man were inconclusive, according to the World Health Organisation.
Kim had this month lifted a three-week lockdown in the city of Kaesong after a suspected case of the coronavirus there.
The meeting also discussed state emergency measures on preventing crop damage and casualties from Typhoon Bavi, which is expected to hit the country within days, KCNA reported.
Heavy rain and flooding have raised concern about food supplies in the isolated country.
The ruling party had said it will hold a congress next year to decide a new five-year plan, after a party meeting noted serious delays in improving the national economy and living standards.
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