Kim Jong-un was treated by foreign doctors for a leg injury that resulted in his six-week absence from public events, South Korea’s government has confirmed.
Kwon Young-se, South Korea’s ambassador to China, informed South Korean parliamentarians of Kim’s recent medical treatment earlier this week while they were conducting an annual audit of Seoul’s China embassy.
“[Kim Jong-un] was suffering from problems in his leg and foreign doctors visited North Korea to treat him,” Kwon told the MPs, Yonhap News Agency reported. “To my knowledge, North Korean officials had also visited some foreign countries to get consultations about his treatment.”
It was unclear from the report where Kwon received the information from. Yonhap said the ambassador cited “information he obtained.” It is possible that he had been briefed by Chinese officials who may be in communication with members of Kim’s close circle. It’s also possible that North Korean officials briefed their South Korean counterparts during Hwang Pyong-so, Choe Ryong-hae, and Kim Yang-gon’s recent trip to South Korea to attend the closing ceremonies of the Asian Games.
There’s also reason to think the information is based solely on analyses conducted by South Korean intelligence agencies.
On Monday, before North Korea state media published images of Kim walking with a cane, the South Korean daily, JoongAng Ilbo, reported that Kim had received two surgeries on his legs last month from a French surgeon that Pyongyang had flown into the country.
“In the middle of last month, Kim Jong-un received surgery on both ankles from a French doctor at the Bonghwa Clinic in Pyongyang,” the newspaper quoted “a key North Korea source” who it said it had met in Seoul. The source added that Kim had also received “treatment for edema and blisters on the bottom of his feet.”
It appeared that the “key North Korea source” was a South Korean intelligence analyst working on North Korea, or at least someone with access to ROK intelligence. In explaining where the information came from, JoongAng Ilbo’s source said a “fairly reliable analysis was made based on the movement of a foreign doctor’s visit to North Korea at that time and a large number of vehicles gathered at the Bonghwa Clinic.”
Regardless of the source, it seems entirely likely that North Korea would have flown in a French (or other foreign) surgeon to treat Kim as it has done so for the Kim family before. Specifically. the French surgeon Dr. Francois-Xavier Roux was sought out by DPRK officials in 1993 and traveled to North Korea to treat then-heir apparent Kim Jong-Il for a “”small head injury following a horse-riding accident.”
Roux was asked to return to North Korea in 2008 to provide additional medical treatment to Kim Jong-Il after the Dear Leader suffered a debilitating stroke. When he arrived in North Korea in August of that year, Kim Jong-Il was unconscious and “in a bad way” at Pyongyang’s Red Cross Hospital, Roux later told numerous media outlets.
During the second trip, Roux spent two months in North Korea nursing Kim Jong-Il back to health. To this day, Roux maintains that he has no idea why Pyongyang decided to contact him.