Kim Jong Un's Aunt is reported to be 'in vegetative state after brain surgery'

D-Bo, Jan. 10, 2014, 11:04 a.m.

Speculation over the fate of the aunt of Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, took a new twist on Thursday as intelligence sources in Seoul and Washington claimed that Kim Kyong-hui is in a vegetative state after undergoing surgery for a brain tumour late last year.

The reports come just days after South Korean media reported that Ms Kim, 67, was dead and may have committed suicide.

The only daughter of Kim Il-sung, the revered founder of North Korea, Ms Kim was the estranged wife of Jang Song-taek before he was executed in December for a litany of crimes against the state.

Ms Kim was last seen in public attending a musical performance by the North Korean People's Army with Kim Jong-un on September 10, but has been notably absent from the ceremony on December 17 to mark the second anniversary of the death of her brother, Kim Jong-il. An empty chair was placed on the podium alongside Kim Jong-un for the duration of the event.

A report in the JoongAng Daily quoted an intelligence official in the United States that Ms Kim has been in a vegetative state since she underwent brain surgery in Paris.

In the aftermath of the operation, her weight dropped to just 35 kg (77 pounds).

An official in the South Korean government told Yonhap News that Ms Kim is in "a critical condition" as a result of complications stemming from a heart problem.

Ms Kim is also believed to have undergone treatment for cancer in the past, with her health problems worsened by long-standing alcoholism and depression brought on by the suicide of her daughter in Paris in September 2006.

Her health will undoubtedly have been affected by the public purging of her husband, who she was reportedly ordered to divorce the day before he was arrested. US intelligence sources claim she gave her approval for the arrest and execution of Jang.

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