North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently underwent a cardiovascular procedure and continues to recuperate from the procedure at a villa outside of Pyongyang, Daily NK has learned.

Reports from a Daily NK source in the country suggest that Kim underwent the surgery at the Hyangsan Hospital on Apr. 12. The hospital is located near Mount Myohyang, in North Pyongan Province, and is exclusively for the use of the Kim family.

Kim is reportedly under the care of doctors at the Hyang San Villa, which is near the hospital.

A doctor from the Kim Man Yoo Hospital in Pyongyang reportedly managed Kim’s cardiovascular procedure along with other doctors with the Korean Red Cross General Hospital and the Pyongyang Medical University who typically handle medical issues concerning the North Korean leader.

Most of the doctors reportedly returned to Pyongyang after Kim’s condition was considered stable following the procedure. Only some of the doctors have remained near Kim to monitor his health, the Daily NK source said.

Around 30 members of Kim’s personal guard along with other guard units are reportedly watching over Hyang San Villa. Guards who were at the villa before Kim arrived have reportedly been stationed elsewhere for the time being.

Questions about Kim’s health were raised by observers of the country when the North Korean leader failed to take part in a ceremony honoring his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on Apr. 15.

North Korean state media, including the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and Rodong Sinmun, reported that members of the country’s communist party and government officials had shown their respects to the late leader at the palace, but did not mention whether Kim himself attended the ceremony. State media reports did not publish any pictures of Kim at the ceremony.

South Korea’s unification ministry stated at the time that it was the first instance that Kim Jong Un had failed to attend the ceremony at the palace to honor his grandfather since he gained power in 2012.

While questions over Kim’s health arose when he failed to show up at the ceremony, some observers suggested that his non-attendance at the event was due to fears over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Daily NK source speculated that Kim’s cardiovascular procedure was due to a number of factors, including his obesity, prolific smoking habits, and “overwork.”

“Kim had suffered from inflammation of blood vessels involving the heart from last August, but his condition worsened after he made multiple trips up and down Mt. Paektu recently,” he told Daily NK.

“Mt. Paektu has low atmospheric pressure, which is not a suitable environment to visit frequently or stay in for long periods of time if you’re dealing with blood pressure problems or inflammation of the blood vessels,” he added.

Kim’s worsened medical condition, however, may have been due to more recent visits to military-related installations and political events given that his last visit to Mt. Paektu was back in December – at least according to state media reports.

The Daily NK source reported that a helicopter was spotted leaving Pyongyang on Apr. 12, the day Kim’s surgery reportedly occurred, along with a car exclusively used by the North Korean leader. Given these reports, Kim may have left Pyongyang for the hospital just days after holding a politburo meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Central Committee on Apr. 11.

“While both his helicopter and his personal car left the city, it’s not clear what mode of transportation he took, given that such information is a closely-guarded secret,” the source said.

“Not making the details of his movements public is one way the regime ensures his safety,” he added.

Correction: A previous version of this article translated into English incorrectly referred to multiple sources for this story; this article is based on a single Daily NK source in North Korea. 

Correction: A previous version of this article translated into English referred to “heart surgery.” The original Korean refers more broadly to a “cardiovascular procedure.”

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