North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un Reappears - at Fertilizer Plant

Sunday, 03 May, 2020

North Korean state radio said Kim attended Friday the completion ceremony for a phosphate fertilizer plant in Sunchon, a city about 50 kilometers north of the capital, Pyongyang.

A North Korean defector and current South Korean lawmaker lent credibility to those reports, claiming Friday he is "99 percent" sure that Kim Jong Un died after surgery.

People at the factory "broke into thunderous cheers of hurrah" when he appeared, according to the BBC, which cited North Korea's Korea Central News Agency. The head of the parliamentary friendship group with the Parliament of the DPRK Kazbek Taysaev (Communist party), with reference to the representative of the Embassy of North Korea in Russian Federation on Tuesday also said that Kim Jong UN is running.

The disappearance was more noticeable because Kim for the first time as leader missed celebrations to mark the April 15 birthday of state founder and grandfather Kim Il Sung - one of the most important days on the North Korean calendar.

South Korean officials had repeatedly disputed reports of his poor health saying they have detected no unusual signs from North Korea.

When reporters asked US President Donald Trump about Kim's surfacing, he reportedly said he didn't want to talk about it.

He was accompanied by his sister Kim Yo-jong and several other officials. The chaotic situation could put the political career of the South's President Moon Jae-in at risk, as Moon has been promoting engagement policy toward North Korea as his top political agenda.

The former top US diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, said the pieces of the puzzle of Kim's disappearance would take time to assemble.

The North's No. 2 leader Choe Ryong-hae was not among the attendees.

On Friday, Kim attended the event in Sunchon, near the capital Pyongyang, after almost three weeks of swirling rumours that the leader of the nuclear-armed nation was seriously ill or possibly dead. Such proximity is often used by North Korean propaganda organs to indicate the leader's favour and might show that the worldwide discussion about her taking his place had not damaged her standing.

Soon afterwards, CNN reported that Washington was "monitoring intelligence" that Kim was in "grave danger" after undergoing surgery, quoting what it said was an anonymous U.S. official.

While this may go far to quell speculation about Kim's health, the notable absence of photos or video from the event is bound to keep suspicions alive about what might be actually happening in North Korea.

North Korea's official media, however, have not reported on the missile launch, raising doubts about Kim's health.