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Rumors of death of N. Korea leader's aunt start to spread

SEOUL--The whereabouts of Kim Kyong Hui, aunt of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and wife of the recently purged No. 2 man Jang Song Thaek, have been unknown for weeks, spawning speculation that she might have died.

According to a local media outlet, the North Korean leader's only aunt is believed to have either committed suicide or died.

“It is possible that Kim Kyong Hui committed suicide right after the purge of Jang Song Thaek, or died of a heart attack. We are keeping close tabs on the situation in the North,” an unnamed source was quoted as saying.

However, some North Korea observers dismissed speculation of her death.

“North Korea must have broken the news about Kim's death and arranged a funeral to commemorate her passing if she had really died — she is at the centre of the Kim family,” another source was quoted as saying.

Her frail health was reported to be the reason for her prolonged absence from the public scene, but a Seoul government official was quoted as saying, “It is yet to confirm whether Kim Kyong Hui was dead.”

Following the shock execution of her husband, Kim has not been in the public eye since October, when she watched a music performance with Kim Jong Un and his wife.

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