|North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) inspects a pursuit assault plane group under the Air and Anti-Aircraft Division in the western area in this file photo released April 12, 2020, by the North's official Korean Central News Agency.|
Leader Kim Jong Un's absence from the public eye since his attendance at a ruling party politburo meeting on April 11 has spawned rumors of his failing health despite Seoul's assessment that there was "nothing unusual" in the communist state.
Kazbek Taysayev, who heads the Russian State Duma group on ties with the North's rubber-stamp parliament, said Tuesday that Kim "keeps working" as seen in his reported activities such as sending a message to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, according to Tass. The State Duma is the lower house of Russia's legislature.
"I talked to (the North Korean Embassy) today. We contact every day," Taysayev was quoted by Tass as saying. "Kim Jong-un sent his congratulations to the president of South Africa. They have a national holiday. This is his personal congratulations."
Taysayev added that he thinks the reports about Kim's deteriorating health are "wrong."
Oleg Melnichenko, the head of the Russian Federation Council's group for cooperation with the North's parliament, also downplayed speculation about Kim's health after talks with North Korean Ambassador to Russia Sin Hong-chol. The council is the upper house of the Russian legislature.
Melnichenko said that there is "no ground" to judge that Kim has a health problem, Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Tuesday.
The lawmaker also pointed out that had Kim fallen ill, Pyongyang would have "definitely" informed the Russian side.
Rumors about Kim's health surged after he apparently skipped an annual visit to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on the occasion of the April 15 birthday of the late national founder and his grandfather Kim Il-sung.
Speculation varied from Kim being incapacitated after surgery to the young leader simply self-isolating over new coronavirus concerns. Officials both in Seoul and Washington dismissed suggestions that he is seriously ill.
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