Rumors abound: Is Kim Jong-un in a coma or not?

Here we go again. Who is ready for a fresh round of speculation that North Korea’s lil’ Rocketman, Kim Jong-un is in a coma? Tongues are wagging again thanks to Chang Song-min, the former aide to South Korea’s late president Kim Dae-jung, for some comments he made that were published Sunday.

“I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended,” he told South Korean media.

The former aide added that the leader’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was poised to help lead the country.

“A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period,” he said.

It is easy to believe that this is some standard propaganda coming from the Hermit Kindom, given the actions that have been reported over the past few days. Lil’ Kim likes to keep us guessing about the workings of his dictatorship. North Korea is locked down so tight that the outside world is in the dark about the country. Perhaps some information from North Korea was fed to Chang Song-min and he is using it to reach his conclusions.

On August 20, Kim Jong-un delegated part of his authority to his close aides, including his younger sister Yo-jong, to have them oversee state affairs, according to South Korea’s spy agency. The move is said to have been done to relieve stress on the North Korean dictator. He’s still in charge, you see, but the transfer of power is tricky. Kim Jong-un doesn’t have a plan in place and hasn’t named a successor should he die. Kim Jong-un gave the majority of the delegated power to his little sis but not over the economy. South Korean spies confirm that his 33-year-old sibling now serves as his “de facto second-in-command.”

“Currently, Kim Yo-jong, the first vice department director of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, is steering overall state affairs based on the delegation,” the National Intelligence Service was quoted as saying in a closed-door briefing to the National Assembly by lawmakers.

According to the NIS, Yo-jong has assumed the majority of the authority delegated by the national leader, but she is not the only one who has shared power with him.

Pak Pong-ju, vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, and the new premier Kim Tok-hun have taken over power in controlling the economic sector, it added.

Kim Jong-un has only been seen a few times this year and rumors have circulated that he suffers from a botched heart operation. On August 21, a seemingly healthy Kim acknowledged his plans to improve the country’s dismal economy haven’t succeeded. His ruling party scheduled a rare congress in January to set development goals for the next five years. It is highly unusual that Kim admitted economic failure.

The Workers’ Party said North Korea’s economy has “not improved in the face of the sustaining severe internal and external situations” — a reference to a triple blow of U.S.-led sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and devastating floods — and that development goals have been “seriously delayed and the people’s living standard (has) not been improved remarkably.”

Kim announced his first five-year development plan with goals of improving North Korea’s power supply and agricultural and manufacturing production during the last Workers’ Party congress in 2016, its first in 36 years.

But at Wednesday’s meeting of the party’s decision-making Central Committee, Kim acknowledged economic “shortcomings” caused by “unexpected and inevitable challenges in various aspects and the situation in the region surrounding the Korean Peninsula,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported Thursday.

The South Korean agency, the National Intelligence Service, which has a mixed track record in reading developments in North Korea’s secretive ruling elite, held a closed-door meeting Thursday. Lawmaker Ha Tae-keung said the agency assured them that Kim Jong-un is in good health and in charge. Kim Byung-kee, another lawmaker who attended the briefing thinks North Korea’s foreign currency reserves are being depleted rapidly because of the coronavirus. North Korea has experienced prolonged border controls under its anti-virus campaign which has shutdown construction and other projects.

So, by Sunday, the rumor mill was in full swing. To believe that Kim is in a coma, you’d have to believe that the dictator went from good health to a comatose state in a matter of a couple of days. It’s possible but unlikely, given every time Kim Jong-un is reported to be on his death bed, it turns out to not be true. It’s some kind of sick game he’s playing with the outside world. At the time he delivered his confession about the poor economy, he vowed to keep the borders closed (I thought the country was already sealed-up tight) and said he’ll refuse any outside help.

Maybe he is having problems due to heart disease and he experienced a botched surgery. We likely won’t know for a while, if ever, what is happening. Back in April when his alleged heart surgery was first reported, Kim Jong-un was out of the public’s eye for several weeks, only to resurface to tour a fertilizer factory. His absence was never explained.