Editor’s Note: Guest columnist Steven Metz is filling in for Candace Rondeaux this week.
On April 15, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un failed to make his annual visit to Kumsusan Palace in Pyongyang to celebrate the birthday of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, who is interred there. In North Korea’s dynastic cult of personality, it was a shocking break from tradition, and sparked reports that Kim had undergone major heart surgery and might even be near death.
The secretiveness of the North Korean regime always makes it difficult to know exactly what is going on inside the country or what Kim’s health condition really is. In this case, South Korea has stated that it has not identified any “unusual signs” regarding Kim’s health, and U.S. officials have indicated that they are monitoring the situation but have not reached any conclusion.