kim jong un binoculars
Kim Jong-un 'no longer in control of North Korea,' claims former high-ranking official Reuters

Kim Jong-un has been deposed as leader of North Korea in a coup which happened nearly a year ago, it has been claimed.

That is according a former top official in the Stalinist state, amid speculation over why the capital city Pyongyang has gone into lockdown.

Nobody is being let in or out of the city at present, after travel restrictions were imposed which aroused speculation of a threat to dictator Kim Jong-un, thought to be aged 31. Pyongyang houses the regime's chosen elite, so the move appears significant.

Kim has ruled the Hermit Kingdom as supreme leader since 2011 and carried out a purge in a show of strength which saw his own uncle by marriage executed for alleged plotting.

But he has vanished from public life in recent weeks after being reportedly afflicted by an obsession with Swiss cheese. Kim's sister Kim Yo-jong has reportedly taken the reins for official engagements during his absence.

The claim that Kim is not in control at all has been made by North Korea's former star poet, Jang Jin-sung, to Vice.

It only adds to the mystery over what is happening inside the secretive state, if there is uncertainty over whether Kim has been in control during the past year.

Jang – who used to write poetry hailing the regime - made his comments during an international conference attended by defectors, late last month.

He said Kim was a puppet leader and that real power inside the country has been wielded by a crop of officials inside the Organisation and Guidance Department (OGD).

According to him, the execution of Kim's uncle Jang Sung-taek actually weakened the young dictator, rather than strengthened his position.

"When Jang Sung-taek was executed that was, basically, that totally broke everything," he said.

"You just can't touch a Kim family member publicly. It's the OGD's claim to legitimacy. It's them saying no one is more legitimate than them. By Jang dying, Kim Jong-un is now surrounded by the OGD."

The high-ranking defector explained to Vice that the OGD was the brainchild of Kim's father and predecessor Kim Jong-Il and was loyal to him, but that those ties are not so strong toward his son.