Rumors are circulating among North Korean cadres that the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, was vaccinated against COVID-19 in May.  

According to a Daily NK source on Thursday, the rumors are relatively detailed. Namely, they say that Kim was vaccinated at a villa located away from Pyongyang more than three months ago. 

Kim made an unplanned disappearance when he experienced high fever and nausea after the vaccination, according to some of the rumors. 

In fact, Kim made no public appearances for about a month between May 6, when he attended an arts performance for military families, and June 4, when he chaired a Central Committee politburo meeting.

North Korean cadres believe it highly likely Kim was vaccinated at this time. There are even rumors that about 100 people have been vaccinated, including high-ranking cadres who meet with Kim in person. 

However, some people believe Kim was not the first person in North Korea to be vaccinated. Given the nature of the North Korean system –  which puts the safety of the country’s “supreme leader” first – it is very likely the authorities carried out a test vaccination to determine any side effects before administering a dose to Kim.

Earlier this year, the Chinese government provided Sinopharm and other vaccines at the request of the North Korean authorities, so it appears North Korean trading company officials and foreign ministry cadres were vaccinated first. 

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Kim Jong Un at the leadership podium during the Party Foundation Day military parade in Pyongyang on Oct. 10, 2020. / Image: KCNA

Meanwhile, some North Koreans claim Kim got vaccinated despite the side effects because, among other reasons, he wanted to overcome the country’s economic difficulties “through diplomatic action” in the second half of this year. 

According to another source in North Korea, North Korean authorities hope to arrange a meeting between Kim and Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the latter half of the year. And if the conditions are right, the authorities reportedly believe Kim could engage in dialogue with the United States as well.

The source explained that North Korea holds in its hands two diplomatic strategies — one toward the United States and the other toward China – and the country will move forward with these strategies depending on the situation. 

That is to say, North Korean authorities believe if the United States generates a “friendly atmosphere” towards North Korea and creates an opportunity for the North to engage in dialogue, Pyongyang is ready to sit down with Washington. But they also believe that if such conditions do not materialize, receiving direct aid through China is not a bad strategy, either.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one North Korea expert told Daily NK that China is currently focusing on successfully hosting next year’s winter Olympics, and that “there is little to be gained from meeting North Korea.”

According to this expert, “for the United States, however, managing North Korea has grown in importance after the Afghanistan business, and North Korea ultimately wants to negotiate with the United States, too.

“Given this, the possibility that North Korea and the United States will contact each other is more likely,” he added.

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Seulkee Jang is one of Daily NK's full-time journalists. Please direct any questions about her articles to