North Korean leader Kim Jong-un certainly didn't look like a man who was about to slip into a coma when he was photographed last Wednesday in Pyongyang.
But questions have immediately emerged about when that photo was actually taken - it could even be months old.
Since last week, the rumour mill has once again gone into overdrive. There are reports that the dictator is near death with his younger sister Kim Yo-jong poised to take over ruling the sealed-off fiefdom.
South Korea's National Intelligence Service has told the country's politicians that Kim's sister is now "de facto second in command" and she could take over the running of the brutal regime upon his death.
However, even her whereabouts are now being questioned.
CAN MOST RECENT PHOTO BE BELIEVED?
On North Korean TV last week, Supreme Leader Kim looked in good health.
Wearing a blindingly white jacket, tortoiseshell glasses and with slicked black hair, he entered the auditorium of one of the regime's buildings in central Pyongyang to rapturous applause from subjects dressed in near identical garb.
He was reported to have chaired the snappily titled sixth plenary meeting of the 7th Central Committee of the Workers' Party of Korea, on August 19.
However, there are some doubts as to the veracity of the images.
Distributed by respected news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP), it admitted it had no way of knowing the truth behind the footage.
On a disclaimer to news organisations worldwide, AFP said the images were supplied by a "third party" via the Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), a mouthpiece of the North Korean Government.
"AFP cannot independently verify the authenticity, location, date and content of this image," the agency said.
It is a common note news organisations worldwide place on images from the so-called hermit kingdom when they are totally reliant on footage from the Pyongyang regime.
Which means it's possible that the photo may not have been taken on Thursday of last week at all.
Indeed, the image looks a lot like one distributed in December of Kim chairing the fifth plenary meeting of the seventh central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea which was held in exactly the same place.
At the December shindig, Kim had the same white jacket, the same specs, the same hair and the same red backdrop.
It is of course possible that the images are entirely genuine and that Kim simply likes white jackets for certain party meetings. Indeed, he does like donning an all-white wardrobe on occasions, and sometimes all-back outfits.
KIM HAS BARELY BE SEEN IN 2020
But what isn't in doubt is that Kim has made remarkably few public appearances in the past year and has missed a number of critical events which has led to speculation about his health.
According to US-based website NK News, during April, May and June of this year, Kim made just seven public appearances. That's hugely down on 2019's 46 appearances and 2013's high point of 69.
Since June, Kim has cropped up on very few other occasions bar last Thursday's plenary. One of those was on July 27 at an event to mark the 67th anniversary of the end of the 1950-53 Korean War which divided the country in two.
At this ceremony he said the North's nuclear programme had secured the nation's future.
"Thanks to our reliable and effective self-defensive nuclear deterrent, there will no longer be war, and our country's safety and future will be firmly guaranteed forever."
NK News said that Kim has been absent for periods of three weeks or more at least three times since rumours about his faltering health began to be discussed in April.
"Although photos taken of Kim at a May 1 ribbon-cutting ceremony ended previous rumours that he died, the overall low frequency of the North Korean leader's appearances over the past three months certainly raise questions about what's happening in Pyongyang," the website stated.
A crucial and notable event that Kim skipped was April 15's Day of the Sun commemorations that paid tribute to his grandfather and founding leader of North Korea President Kim II Sung.
SISTER POISED TO TAKE CONTROL
Kim could be lying low due to fears of Covid-19. However, Pyongyang has repeatedly said that unlike almost every other country it was not affected by coronavirus. Although that narrative changed in late July when the government said a defector returning from South Korea had brought the virus with them.
One outlandish theory is that the regime employs body doubles of Kim which can stand in for the dictator. A clip from July 2017 purports to show Kim chatting with his lookalikes.
Kim is said to often travel with lookalikes to ward off possible assassination attempts.
However, while a body double might be convincing enough to pull of a photo opp a stand in for Kim to be snapped grinning at a fertiliser plant in May, it's unlikely they could chair something as exciting – and long – as a plenary meeting of the central committee of the Workers' Party of Korea.
When Kim first went on hiatus in April there were rumours he had fallen critically ill. It should be noted that South Korea's government has consistently said some of the wildest rumours surrounding Kim may not be borne out.
More recently, Chang Song-min, a former aide to late-South Korean president Kim Dae-jung, alleged Kim was "in a coma".
"I assess him to be in a coma, but his life has not ended," he was reported as saying in South Korean media on August 20, just a day after the images of the Pyongyang meeting were released.
He noted that Kim Yo-jong, who is just 33, could be poised to take the leadership in his absence.
"A complete succession structure has not been formed, so Kim Yo-jong is being brought to the fore as the vacuum cannot be maintained for a prolonged period," Chang said.
SISTER WOULD BE 'REGENT' RATHER THAN LEADER
Many Korea watchers think it's unlikely she would take on the role permanently, instead becoming a "regent" ruler until Kim's son – still very young – could be leader in his own right.
Yoo Ho-yeol, a professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University told Canada's National Post in April that Kim Yo-jong's role would "be limited to a regent at most".
"[There is] not only the male-dominant leadership, but also ordinary people there would resist a female leader," he said.
It's been reported that Kim Yo-jong has been given partial authority to oversee general state affairs in a move that is seen as easing Kim's workload. Other high-ranking officials are also said to have taken on some of Kim's duties.
But quite apart from the noise surrounding the condition of North Korea's leader, mystery also surrounds the whereabouts of Kim Yo-jong herself.
She was apparently absent from a politburo, or cabinet meeting, of the regime on August 13, according to NK News, which said she was missing from TV footage of the event.
Some analysts have suggested that far from being about to take the top job, this could even be a sign Kim's sister has been demoted.
With only a handful of public appearances over the last few months, and even those somewhat suspect, Kim may need to do more than chair a meeting and visit a few factories to put the rumour mill on his condition to bed.
Of course none of this drama is being relayed to actual North Korean residents. Rather, on the weekend, KCNA's top story was that a shipment of peaches had arrived in the capital.
"Officials of the party and power organs, officials and employees of public catering outlets in the city meticulously organised the work to supply the fruits to the relevant units and every household immediately," the report read.
Not a word on comas nor powerplays.