In recent months Kim Jong-un was rumoured to have died three times after numerous disappearances from the public eye and suspicious behaviour within North Korea. It was first claimed that the hermit state leader was gravely ill, in a vegetative state or had died from botched heart surgery to fit a stent in April. While he reemerged nearly three weeks later, beliefs about his death continued when he vanished two more times and his sister Kim Yo-jong made statements on behalf of the nation. Despite the claims that the leader is alive, many doubt official North Korean statements due to unusual behaviour recently and them previously doctoring photographs and video footage. With such secrecy surrounding the hermit state’s regime, many have looked to the past for answers – where the nation has a history of deploying outrageous tactics to keep their leaders alive and suppressing knowledge of sickness from the wider world.
The death speculations resurfaced after Japan’s Foreign Minister Taro Kono claimed the regime blowing-up a joint liaison office – used to maintain dialogue between North and South Korea – may have been a distraction.
He posed that the visual public stunt in Kaesong, around five miles from the demilitarised zones (DMZ) border, was part of a strategy to deflect attention from Kim Jong-un’s health.
Rumours about the leader first emerged after he missed birthday celebrations on April 15 to honour Kim Il-sung, the leader’s deceased grandfather, who founded North Korea in 1948.
Since then, unusual actions by the state have been branded “quite strange” by Mr Kono who suspects there may be efforts to cover up something bigger.
He said: “We suspect COVID-19 is spreading around North Korea and Kim Jong-un is trying not to get infected, so sometimes he doesn’t come out in public.
“We have some suspicion about his health.”
If assumptions about Kim Jong-un’s wellbeing are correct, it would not be the first time the nation has deployed unusual tactics to keep their leader alive.
Under the rule of Kim Jong-il, the current leader’s father, a special institute was set-up to keep his predecessor – the nation’s founder – alive.
The Kim Il-sung Institute of Health and Longevity was established in a bid to delay or even cure his worsening health conditions, Chris Mikul wrote in the 2019 book ‘My Favourite Dictators’.
At the ‘treatment centre’, one of the most bizarre medical recommendations was for the leader to “regularly eat dog penises at least 2.8 inches (seven centimetres) long”.
Another was for Kim Il-sung to use services of the ‘Joy Brigade’ – a group of “attractive women” trained from an early age to become entertainers and allegedly sex slaves for the dictators.
After the Korean War, a special unit was deployed to “scour schools across the country” to find girls with specific requirements.
Mr Mikul wrote: “They had to be pretty, no more than 5 feet 4 inches tall and have soft voices and no scars.
“From the age of 13 they were given two years of extensive training in singing, dancing and satisfying the sexual preferences of the Great Leader, and later his son.”
It is claimed that these women, who were distributed among villas around the nation, “played an important part in the regime’s efforts to prolong Kim Il-sung’s life”.
Mr Mikul claimed that this followed the Chinese belief that “a man could live longer by sleeping with young girls”.
In addition to that, he recounted the “strangest task” allegedly demanded from these women was for them to arrange themselves to become a “human bed”.
Mr Mikul explained that this involved “a number of girls lying with their legs interlocked in a certain way, allowing the Great Leader to sleep on them”.
Despite “their best efforts” to preserve Kim Il-sung’s life coupled with “a steady stream of young women and dog penises”, he died from a heart attack in 1994.
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While there have not been any announcements about Kim Jong-un’s health from officials within Pyongyang – unusual actions have been carried out by the state that some deem a “distraction tactic”.
These include Kim Yo-jong, his sister, responding on behalf of the leader and even branding South Korean defectors “human scum” and “rubbish-like mongrel dogs”.
In the past, only North Korea’s Supreme Leader has made statements to the outside world – especially one of such apparent importance and hostility.
Many have speculated that this suspected handover of power may indicate she will be the next in-line to the Kim Dynasty – others believe she may have already risen to power.
She has already made history in the state by becoming the first woman in a high-ranking position within the government but becoming the future leader may be more of an upward battle.
It is claimed that “heavy patriarchal views and sexism” are still prominent within the nation, which would work against any female who had aspirations of leading.
In May, Mr Mikul told Express.co.uk: “I sort of thought it would be a step too far for her to take over, but then you don’t know, everything about North Korea is a supposition to some extent.
“Usually whenever anything happens there is a time lag… it’s such a hall of mirrors in the country that any speculation about what’s going on there is suppositions and guesses.
“It’s not sure how long Kim Yo-jong will remain in her position, who knows, Kim Jong-un may live a long life thanks to some dog penises and ladies and probably outlive most of us.”