There has been speculation about the health of the North Korean dictator following an alleged surgery

Kim Jong-un still hasn't appeared publicly for half a month

AFP/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI - North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

It has been half a month since the last public appearance of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un amidst contradictory accounts of his state of health and while nothing unusual has been noticed in Pyongyang, according to South Korean sources.

Kim, who is believed to be 36 years old, obese, a heavy smoker and with old health problems, according to various sources, is being the subject of numerous news items and multiple rumors that have even left him for dead, with little certainty about his true state of health.

The last public appearance of the North Korean dictator was on April 11, when he presided over a meeting of the political bureau of the Workers' Party, which was reported in the North Korean propaganda the next day.

The question of his health status is fuelled by suspicions that he may have recently undergone surgery, with subsequent health complications, amidst the media blackness that prevails in the North Korean country. 

The official North Korean agency KCNA, which usually covers with great care the activities of the leader of that country, is these days reproducing messages that he has allegedly sent himself or received from politicians in other countries.

The state radio station also reported that Kim sent his congratulations to some workers in Samijiyon City on Sunday, without any further details and without his voice being heard.

No photos of Kim have been published for half a month, either visiting civilian or military facilities or supervising ballistic or artillery tests, which he usually attends to conduct operations, according to official propaganda.

In fact, he was absent from the most recent test, last April 14, when North Korea launched several anti-ship cruise missiles into the waters of the Sea of Japan (East Sea for the two Koreas).

He was also absent from a North Korean holiday, Sunshine Day, on April 15, when the birth of the country's founder and grandfather of the current dictator, Kim Il-sung (1912-1994), was celebrated, which continued to fuel suspicions.

This is not the first time Kim disappeared from public view. In 2014 he was absent from the spotlight for 40 days and reappeared with a limp following what the South Korean intelligence services believe was an ankle operation.

The North Korean news website 38 North recently released satellite photos taken between April 21 and 23 showing Kim's usual train parked at a camp in Wonsan town.

The station where the train, according to 38 North, is not for public use, but is reserved only for the North Korean dictator.

Doubts about Kim's health were heightened when the US-based CNN reported on April 21 that, according to unidentified sources, Kim was in "grave danger" after a surgical operation.

But two days later, South Korean intelligence services said there was "no unusual situation" in the North, amid speculation about Kim's health.

That same day, U.S. President Donald Trump called the CNN news "false. "I believe that this news is incorrect... The article that was made by a network," Trump said without quoting CNN, "was incorrect. I've been told that they used false documents.

But conjecture has followed since then, even with unreliable media and obscure sources that assume he is already dead, such as a Hong Kong website, or that he is in a "vegetative state," as a Japanese tabloid magazine claims.

The conjectures not only mention the North Korean dictator's state of health, but also extend to the possibility that in the next few hours North Korea will carry out a new ballistics test, according to the South Korean newspaper Dong-A Ilbo.

If this test is carried out, it could be the occasion for Kim to show that he is alive and thus close the new round of contradictory versions about his state of health.