ROK media outlet Chosun Ilbo is floating a rumor that core DPRK elite Kim Kyong Hui (Kim Kyo’ng-hu’i) is “critically sick.” The aunt of current leader Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) and the sister of late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il (Kim Cho’ng-il) has not made any reported public appearances in approximately 80 days when she attended a concert by the Song and Dance Ensemble of the Korean People’s Internal Security Forces [KPISF] with her nephew and other senior DPRK officials. The concert was reported by DPRK state media on 12 May and Madame Kim’s prior observed appearance was her attendance at sports competitions between workers in the DPRK public health sector held on International Labor (May) Day on 1 May. Aside from citing a series of ailments that Kim Kyong Hui is rumored to have, Chosun Ilbo only cites an anonymous report that refers to “an intelligence report” that she is severely ill and was being cared for by Kim Jong Un’s wife Ri Sol Ju (Ri So’l-chu).
Rumors Kim Kyong Hui being close to death, having a terminal illness, receiving medical treatment abroad or being in the throes of drug addiction have appeared in South Korean media for a number of years. The last batch of gossip about the state of Madame Kim’s health appeared between August 2012 and October 2012 and caused a round of shallow, mindless speculation about how her death could affect leadership dynamics. The latest rumors on Madame Kim’s health could be due to a number of other factors. Her last observed appearance was prior to a long period of inspection tours outside of Pyongyang. It also occurred as a number of central party secretaries and department directors also disappeared from DPRK state media, some of whom later resurfaced during Kim Jong Un’s visit to the Victorious Fatherland Liberation (Korean) War, reported on DPRK state media on 11 July. Madame Kim’s absence may also be linked to the rumored establishment of the Department of the Economy in the Party Central Committee apparatus. And yet, Pyongyang watchers assume that she’s even in the country. Kim Kyong Hui has homes in Singapore and Europe to which she has previously traveled for extensive stays; she may be like other members of the Kim Family and commuting to Pyongyang when necessary.
Kim Kyong Hui, along with her husband Jang Song Taek (Chang So’ng-t’aek) is one of the most powerful members of the DPRK’s political leadership who was instrumental in grooming Kim Jong Un and ensuring support among DPRK elites and the extended Kim Family during his hereditary succession drive. Madame Kim is currently a Korean Workers’ Party [KWP] Secretary, a Party Central Committee Department Director, a member of the KWP Political Bureau and either own or serves as a principal officer in several foreign trading corporations.