Kim Jong Un’s Absence Due To Foot Surgery, Report Claims

Reports out of South Korea are claiming that Kim Jong Un’s month and a half long absence was due to foot surgery:

SEOUL, South Korea — The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, whose prolonged absence from public view aroused rumors that he was ill or deposed, or both, was recovering from surgery on his left foot, South Korea’s intelligence agency told lawmakers on Tuesday.

North Korea’s state news media did not report any public appearances by Mr. Kim for almost six weeks until Oct. 14, when he was shown visiting a housing project in Pyongyang, walking with a cane. The North Korean accounts have not explained the reason for his absence.

The South Korean information about Mr. Kim’s foot was disclosed during a closed parliamentary audit of the National Intelligence Service, the South Korean spy agency.

Its representatives told lawmakers that Mr. Kim, who has appeared to be gaining weight, had undergone surgery for tarsal tunnel syndrome, a painful foot condition caused by the compression of a nerve, according to two lawmakers who briefed reporters on what they were told. One suggested that Mr. Kim’s weight might re-aggravate the problem.

The intelligence agency did not disclose how it had obtained the information, but added that a European expert had operated on Mr. Kim, the lawmakers said.

This report appears to be consistent with reports from September that Kim had been suffering from some malady that made walking in public difficult if not impossible, and it appears to discount the rumors of political machinations in Pyongyang aimed at his ouster. As with all things North Korea, of course, what the actual truth is remains unknown but the fact that Kim is back in the public eye does tend to make the medical problem explanation plausible.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.