Kim Jong-un's Aunt 'Critically Sick'

      July 22, 2013 09:32

      Kim Kyong-hui looks thin in this picture taken on April 13, 2012 at a ceremony to unveil statues of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang. /AFP-Yonhap

      Kim Kyong-hui, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's aunt and a key figure behind the throne, has not been seen in public for 80 days.

      The 67-year old has not disappeared from public view for such a long time before since she resurfaced in June 2009, an informed source said. She is said to be suffering a variety of diseases.

      She was last seen on May 12 alongside Kim Jong-un, his wife Ri Sol-ju, and Jang Song-taek, her husband and eminence grise behind the regime. They were watching a song-and-dance performance in Pyongyang.

      But there was no sign of her at the rather more important memorial event at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on July 8 on the 19th anniversary of nation founder Kim Il-sung's death.

      Jang's public activities have also been drastically curtailed over the same period. He has been seen in public only three times since his wife's last public appearance on May 12.

      This caused some speculation that the couple may have fallen victim to a purge, but it is more likely that his absence is related to his wife's deteriorating health.

      "Even Ri Sol-ju has appeared in public only twice since May," the source added. "There is an intelligence report that she is nursing Kim Kyong-hui."

      The rumors are likely to be fueled if she fails to attend massive celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice this Saturday.

      Kim Kyong-hui has a history of depression and alcoholism, which got worse in the mid-2000s because of her discord with her husband and their daughter Jang Kum-song's suicide in 2006. Even after her comeback as the head of the Workers Party's Light Industry Department after treatment and rehabilitation in June 2009, she reportedly suffered from lower back pain, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes.

      She appears to have aged fast after her brother, former leader Kim Jong-il, died in December 2011.

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