Details remain very sketchy but a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project, 38 North, claimed the train was parked at the “leadership station” in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23 amid growing speculation over the alleged death of Kim Jong-un. They said the station is reserved for the use of the Kim family amid unverified reports from Japan and China that the North Korean dictator is dead following botched heart surgery.
The group claimed the train probably belonged to Kim Jong-un, but it has not been confirmed and it is unknown whether the North Korea leader was in Wonsan at the time.
The report said: “The train’s presence does not prove the whereabouts of the North Korean leader or indicate anything about his health but it does lend weight to reports that Kim is staying at an elite area on the country’s eastern coast.”
Speculation about Kim’s health first arose due to his absence from the anniversary of the birthday of North Korea’s founding father and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on April 15.
North Korea’s state media last reported on Kim’s whereabouts when he presided over a meeting on April 11.
And now it has emerged that media outlets in China and Japan are reporting that the 36-year-old dictator is dead.
Other sources said he was on his death bed in a vegetative state with no hope of resuscitation after botched heart surgery.
But because of the nature of the ultra secret regime in North Korea claims of Kim Jong-un’s death are very difficult to verify before an official state announcement.
Reporting from inside North Korea is notoriously difficult because of tight controls on information.
China has dispatched a team to North Korea including medical experts to advise on Kim Jong Un, according to three people familiar with the situation.
A third-generation hereditary leader who came to power after his father’s death in 2011, Kim has no clear successor in a nuclear-armed country, which could present major international risk.
On Thursday, US President Donald Trump downplayed reports that Kim was ill.
He said: “I think the report was incorrect,” but he declined to say if he had been in touch with North Korean officials.
But a Trump administration official said continuing days of North Korean media silence on Kim’s whereabouts had heightened concerns about his condition, and that information remained scant from a country US intelligence has long regarded as a “black box.”
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The US State Department did not immediately respond to questions about the situation on Saturday.
Daily NK, a Seoul-based website that reports on North Korea, cited one unnamed source in North Korea on Monday as saying that Kim had undergone medical treatment in the resort county of Hyangsan north of the capital Pyongyang.
It said that Kim was recovering after undergoing a cardiovascular procedure on April 12.
Since then, multiple South Korean media reports have cited unnamed sources this week saying that Kim might be staying in the Wonsan area.
On Friday, local news agency Newsis cited South Korean intelligence sources as reporting that a special train for Kim’s use had been seen in Wonsan, while Kim’s private plane remained in Pyongyang.
Newsis reported Kim may be sheltering from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Kim, believed to be 36, has disappeared from coverage in North Korean state media before. In 2014, he vanished for more than a month and North Korean state TV later showed him walking with a limp.
Speculation about his health has been fanned by his heavy smoking, apparent weight gain since taking power and family history of cardiovascular problems.
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