TOKYO — Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has mysteriously been missing from the public eye for almost a month, sparking rumors covering every possibility from a stroke to a coup d’etat, is merely recovering from ankle surgery, a South Korean newspaper has reported.

Kim had fractured both of his ankles and had surgery in Pyongyang in the middle of September to treat them, the Chosun Ilbo, South Korea’s largest newspaper, reported on Tuesday, citing an unnamed source.

“I heard that Kim Jong Un injured his right ankle in June after pushing ahead with on-site visits and ended up fracturing both ankles because he left the injury unattended,” the source was quoted as saying, adding that he had the operation at the Bonghwa Clinic, an exclusive hospital for high-ranking party members.

Such is the fascination with North Korea, the world’s most impenetrable country, that rumors spread like wildfire. But they are almost always impossible to verify.

Nevertheless, it is true that Kim has become noticeably more rotund since he took over the leadership of North Korea from his father, Kim Jong Il, in December 2011. He was pictured limping in July during a ceremony to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of his grandfather, former North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.