Kim Jong-un reappears in North Korea after weeks of speculation

Sunday, 03 May, 2020

Ripley also retweeted posts claiming some of the other newly-released images show the same green golf cart in the background Mr Kim used in 2014 to travel in after treatment for his leg.

Reuters could not independently verify the KCNA report. When it happened in December 2011, following years of deteriorating health and diminishing public appearances, the outside world had no clue until the North's state media announced it two days later.

The fact that no hint of Friday's huge ceremony had leaked out until now underlines how tight information control is in North Korea, observers said.

Soon after CNN reported that Washington was "monitoring intelligence" that Mr Kim was in "grave danger" after undergoing surgery, quoting an anonymous U.S. official. Other unconfirmed rumors suggested that North Korean doctors had sent the leader of the Workers' Party to Pyongyang, China for additional medical help, the paper notes. A week later, it was reported that Kim Jong Un had passed away and that his sister would be taking over the country. Then again, North Korea's secret ways mean just about anything is possible, save for Jong Un actually being dead, of course.

Kim's conspicuous no-show at the launch of several short-range missiles, despite having personally overseen similar launches in the past, only seemed to cement reports that he was unwell.

South Korea's government, which has a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang's ruling elite, repeatedly downplayed speculation that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery.

KCNA  via REUTERS
KCNA via REUTERS

It wasn't immediately clear what had caused Kim's absence.

North Korea has become deadlocked in denuclearization talks with the USA and now calls 2020 the year of a "full-frontal breakthrough" to counter United Nations sanctions by building its economy under its own efforts. But until Saturday, it had gone weeks without reporting any public appearances by its leader or responding to the speculation about his health, and its silence fueled the rumor mill. "Mr. Russel had dealt with North Korea as a National Security Council director at the White House and assistant secretary of state for Asia".

Also read | Trump has "a very good idea" about Kim Jong Un's status.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor of worldwide studies at Ewha University in Seoul said Kim's disappearance had highlighted that the world is largely unprepared for instability in North Korea. But four days later he missed the celebrations for the birthday of his grandfather - the most important date in the North's political calendar - sparking questions over his whereabouts.

A completion ceremony of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory, which has been built as the production base of fertilizer, was splendidly held on May Day, the global holiday of the working people of the whole world, the report said.

"Usually in April, in preparation for the Day of the Sun, we organize a large-scale event to visit the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun [in Pyongyang], where the bodies of Kim Il Sung and [Kim Jong Il] are [laid to rest]", the source said.