From satellite imagery a train likely belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been parked at his compound on the country’s east coast since last week
The satellite photos released by 38 North, a website specializing in North Korea studies, don’t say anything about Kim’s potential health problems, and they echo South Korean government intelligence that Kim is staying outside of the capital, Pyongyang.
KIM JONG-UN is dead or in a grave condition following heart surgery, according to multiple sources from the Far East reporting the demise of North Korean dictator, raising questions about who will take over the secretive state.
Media outlets in China and Japan have reported that Kim Jong-un is dead, while other sources have said the 36-year-old dictator is on his death bed in a vegetative state with no hope for recuperation after heart surgery. Claims about Kim’s death or grave illness are incredibly difficult to verify because of the nature of the ultra secret regime in North Korea.
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But reports have triggered speculation about Kim’s successor in the event of his death because his children are too young to take over the reigns of the nuclear-armed pariah regime.
It is unknown whether Kim has appointed a successor or whether the hermit state could be in fact run by an elite group of elders and figureheads if reports of his death are confirmed.
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.
Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong, 31, is understood to be already exercising significant influence within the North Korean government.
Analyst Cheong Seong-Chang told how she took over state duties on his behalf, particularly in October 2014, when Kim Jong-un had medical treatment.
She was removed from the politburo in April last year, but was reinstated again this month.
Kim Yo-jong previously called South Korea a “frightened barking dog” in her first public statement.
Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asian Institute for Policy Studies, told The Guardian: “By having someone like Kim Yo-jong – who has been a dovish figure towards the South and acting as a soft and friendly messenger – issue such a strong statement condemning the current government, the North is raising its pressure.”
Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, 70, has also been tipped as a potential leader.
Often described as the regime’s “virtual number two official”, Choe Ryong-hae is technically head of state in North Korea.
He is considered Kim’s right-hand man and was promoted to president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly last year.
Pak Pong Ju, a fellow politburo member and former state premier who oversaw the North’s push to introduce more free market functions to revive its economy and help it survive sanctions, has also been tipped to replace the dictator.
He served as the Premier of North Korea between 2004 and 2007.
It also believed Ri Son Gwon and Kim Yong Chol would help join a top team to lead the hermit state.
Kim Yong Chol is a party vice chairman and former top nuclear envoy who previously served as intelligence chief, while Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon recently held high-level talks with South Korea.
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.
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.