North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un returned to public view last week looking alive and well following weeks of speculation about his health after he skipped an important national celebration in mid-April. But speculation about Kim’s next move is continuing amid reports he may be set to take to the water.
An analysis of satellite imagery by the NK PRO monitoring website reveals that a 80-metre-long pool boat, allegedly belonging to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, was moved from its usual spot at the central Wonsan docks to an inner area to undergo repairs, potentially hinting at a visit by Kim to the Wonsan area.
The giant vessel is believed to house an Olympic-sized swimming pool, two huge waterslides and a multi-storey lounge and has been described in some reports as “capable of hosting extravagant gatherings”.
According to satellite footage provided by Planet Labs and then analysed by NK PRO, which includes a team of researchers from the US, South Korea and the UK, the luxurious boat was moved from its usual location at the end of March, with the pool’s flooring then being removed and one of its structures demolished in mid-April. On one hand, this could mean that the boat has been taken out of service. However, this could also mean that the vessel could be about to be used by Kim Jong-un or his associates, the report claimed.
The report was published on 1 May, as speculation was continuing about Kim’s state of health and possible demise due to his absence from public sight for 20 days. He also missed the Day of the Sun on 15 April, the major North Korean holiday celebrating the birth of his grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il-sung, which is unprecedented.
However, on 2 May, North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency released images of the North Korean leader attending the opening of a fertiliser plant in a region north of Pyongyang, seemingly looking healthy.
Earlier, satellite images analysed by US-based North Korea monitoring project 38 North, suggested that a train, allegedly belonging to Kim, was parked at a station reserved for his personal use at the same coastal resort of Wonsan, suggesting that the republic’s head could have been residing there during his absence from public view. This has been corroborated by a senior foreign policy advisor to President Moon Jae-in, Moon Chung-in, who told the US media on 27 April that the North Korean leader had been staying in Wonsan since 13 April.