News Nation Logo

N Korea's Kim Jong Un appears in public amid health rumours

Speculation About His Health Swirled After He Missed The April 15 Birthday Celebration For His Late Grandfather Kim Il Sung, The Country's Most Important Holiday, For The First Time Since Taking Power In 2011.

PTI | Updated on: 02 May 2020, 09:17:14 AM
Kim Jong Un Appearance

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published several photos of Kim wearing black and smiling as he looked around the factory and cut a red ribbon. (Photo Credit: News Nation Photo)

Seoul:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in 20 days as he celebrated the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang, state media said Saturday, ending an absence that had triggered global rumours that he may be seriously ill. The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim attended the ceremony Friday in Sunchon with other senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule.

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published several photos of Kim wearing black and smiling as he looked around the factory and cut a red ribbon, his sister looking from behind. Seemingly thousands of workers, many of them masked, stood in lines at the massive complex, releasing balloons into the air. The images gave no clear sign that Kim was in discomfort. He wasn't seen with a walking stick, like the one he used in 2014 when he was recovering from a presumed ankle surgery.

However, one of the photos at the factory showed a green electric cart, which appeared similar to a vehicle he used in 2014. It was Kim's first public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a ruling Workers' Party meeting to discuss the coronavirus and reappoint his sister as an alternate member of the powerful decision-making Political Bureau of the party's Central Committee. That move confirmed her substantial role in the government.

Speculation about his health swirled after he missed the April 15 birthday celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, the country's most important holiday, for the first time since taking power in 2011. The possibility of high-level instability raised troubling questions about the future of the secretive, nuclear-armed state that has been steadily building an arsenal meant to threaten the U.S. mainland while diplomacy between Kim and President Donald Trump has stalled.

Some experts say South Korea, as well as its regional neighbors and ally Washington, must begin preparing for the possible chaos that could come if Kim is sidelined by health problems or even dies. Worst-case scenarios include North Korean refugees flooding South Korea or China or military hard-liners letting loose nuclear weapons.  The world is largely unprepared for instability in North Korea, said Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul.

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo need tighter coordination on contingency plans while international organizations need more resources and less controversy over the role of China. Following an unusually provocative run in missile and nuclear tests in 2017, Kim used the Winter Olympics in South Korea to initiate negotiations with Washington and Seoul in 2018. That led to a surprising series of summits, including three between Kim and Trump. But negotiations have faltered in past months over disagreements in exchanging sanctions relief and disarmament steps, which raised doubts about whether Kim would ever fully deal away an arsenal he likely sees as his strongest guarantee of survival.

Kim entered 2020 vowing to build up his nuclear stockpile and defeat sanctions through economic self-reliance. Some experts say the North's self-imposed lockdown amid the coronavirus crisis could potentially hamper his ability to mobilize people for labor. The KCNA said workers at the fertilizer factory broke into 'thunderous cheers' for Kim, who it said is guiding the nation in a struggle to build a self-reliant economy in the face of 'head wind' by hostile forces." The report didn't mention any direct comment toward Washington or Seoul.

For all the Latest World News, Download News Nation Android and iOS Mobile Apps.

First Published : 02 May 2020, 09:17:14 AM