Rumors about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are still circulating in the Sino-North Korean border region despite his return to the public stage after a 20-day absence, Daily NK has learned.
“After Kim Jong Un resurfaced, people started saying that the defectors in South Korea were the ones that first started to spread rumors of his death,” a North Hamgyong Province-based source told Daily NK on Friday.
“People tend to think that those who betrayed their country and ran away [defectors] made up the story, but they’re also not surprised because they think the society [South Korea] allows groundless rumors to spread quite easily,” he added.
ALL SORTS OF RUMORS
Prior to Kim Jong Un’s reemergence into the public eye, a video announcing Kim Jong Un’s death had been circulating among North Koreans in the Sino-North Korean border region.
The North Korean leader extinguished rumors of his death when he made an appearance on May 1 at the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory ribbon cutting ceremony. Speculation about his ill health has persisted, however, based on the unnatural way he was seen walking or the fact that he used a golf cart to get around.
One rumor circulating in North Korea reportedly focuses on some kind of issue with Kim’s legs.
“People are speculating that Kim Jong Un can’t walk properly right now because he might have gotten leg surgery due to his weight,” the source said.
“Other rumors say that he rode around in a car during the opening ceremony because he couldn’t walk properly, while some say that he was exercising to lose weight but strained himself and had to take a long break to rest. There are all sorts of rumors,” he added.
CRACKDOWNS ON INTERNATIONAL CALLS
The source further reported that lecturers and other meetings held by the authorities for ordinary people have not mentioned anything about these rumors.
“The general approach seems to be to ignore [the rumors], but they do keep threatening severe penalties for anyone who makes [international] phone calls in the Sino-North Korean border,” he explained.
“Recently, there was someone who was caught making an [international] call in the mountains,” the source said, adding, “His entire family is completely terrified that the man will be made an example of.”
The man in question was a reportedly cash broker who tried making an international call late last month while travelling to Sechon Laborers District in Hoeryong. A North Korean signal detection team discovered him making the call and arrested him.
“Usually people will quickly get rid of the phone battery and swallow the SIM card to escape punishment, but the man didn’t have the time to do that. The arresting officials didn’t accept a bribe, either,” the source said.
The man may have just been unlucky given that rumors are saying that the Ministry of State Security is putting all its efforts into “catching people it’s had its eye on for some time,” he added.
*Translated by Violet Kim
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