Recent satellite photos of luxury boats often used by Kim Jong Un near Wonsan suggest that the North Korean leader, whose whereabouts have been the subject of rampant speculation in recent days, is at the coastal resort, according to a report citing experts who monitor the rogue regime.
North Korea-monitoring website NK PRO has reported that commercial satellite imagery showed the boats had made movements that suggested Kim or his entourage may be in the vicinity, according to Reuters.
Rumors about Kim’s health erupted after he was missing during the April 15 celebrations to mark the birthday of his late grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il Sung.
The latest images follow a recent report by US-based North Korea monitoring project 38 North, which reported that satellite photos showed what was believed to be Kim’s train at his villa in Wonsan.
South Korean and US officials say the despot may be hunkering down there, possibly to avoid exposure to the coronavirus. They have expressed skepticism of media reports that he is critically ill.
The last time official Pyongyang media reported on Kim’s whereabouts was when he presided over an April 11 meeting — but there have been several reports in recent days of him sending letters and diplomatic messages.
Kim’s compound in Wonsan, a city of some 360,000 on the country’s east coast, is lined with guest villas and includes a private train station, according to experts and satellite imagery.
A boathouse shelters Kim’s Princess 95 luxury yacht, valued at around $7 million in 2013, according to Reuters.
“It’s one of his favorite houses,” Michael Madden, a North Korea leadership expert at the US-based Stimson Center, told the news outlet, adding that Kim is believed to have about 13 large compounds around the country.
“All of them are set up to serve as the leader’s headquarters, so they are all equipped for him to run the country,” he said.
Wonsan’s location allows Kim to easily travel to other areas along the coast, or return quickly to Pyongyang in his private train or along a special road designated for use only by his family or top officials, Madden added.