After health speculations, North Korea's Kim Jong-un makes first appearance
North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance on Friday, weeks after speculations about his ill health took over global media. Kim inaugurated a fertilizer company at Sunchon, not far away from the capital Pyongyang, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported while also releasing images of the leader. He was last seen in public on April 11. Here's more.
Speculations about Kim's health started doing the rounds after he missed April 15 celebrations, seen as the most important day in the country. April 15 is the birth anniversary of Kim's grandfather, Kim Il-sung, the founding father of North and the nation marks the big day with army marches and satellite launches. It was said Kim's cardiovascular surgery went wrong, complicating his health.
Rumors about Kim's health ranged from him being in a vegetative state to having contracted the COVID-19 infection. It was also said that China sent a team of doctors to "save" Kim. Meanwhile, countries including the US, which keeps a tab on North's movements, didn't issue an official statement perhaps learning from 2014 when Kim's absence puzzled everyone but he returned after a month.
To note, Kim looked healthy and hearty in the latest pictures. In one, he was seen cutting a ribbon as the country's top officials flanked him. Kim's sister, Kim Yo-jong, who was speculated to succeed him in case of his death, was also present there. On seeing him, the attendees burst into cheers of "hurrah", the news agency reported. Kim addressed the crowd too.
According to the report, Kim said his father and grandfather "would be greatly pleased if they heard the news that the modern phosphatic fertilizer factory has been built". He was briefed about the workings of the factory too. As and when the plant goes into operation "it will be a glorious revolution and a splendid display of our nation's great economic potential," said Kim.
As early as Friday, Ji Seong-ho, a North defector, said he was 99% sure Kim is dead. Ji recently won a seat in the South Korean Parliament. But South Korean President Moon Jae-in said nothing about the rumors. His top adviser Moon Chung-in recently said that Kim was "alive and well" and was living in Wonsan. No suspicious movements were detected recently, Moon added.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump also seemed to confirm that Kim was doing well. However, he didn't say anything on the reports of his re-emergence. "I'd rather not comment on it yet. We'll have something to say about it at the appropriate time," Trump said during his May Day briefing at White House before leaving for Camp David.
The speculations and their dismissals prove how little the world knows about the nuclear-armed country. When Kim's father, Kim Jong-il, passed away in 2011, the news had remained "safe" with the inner circle of North Korea for two days.