Kim Jong Un has reportedly made his first appearance in close to three weeks, with North Korean state-owned media sharing pictures on Friday, May 1, of the leader cutting the ribbon at a new fertilizer plant.
As NBC News reported, Kim was supposedly seen accompanied by his sister at the ceremony in the city of Suncheon, which comes after days of reports that Kim had either fallen into dire health or died. As NK News noted, the pictures released on Friday appeared to show Kim in good health, conflicting with reports that he had fallen into a vegetative state following a heart surgery gone awry.
“Photos of Kim Jong Un at the event did not show any notably signs that the DPRK leader might be in particularly bad heath, though they did show him standing in front of a golf cart — also seen following his extended disappearance from public view for health reasons in 2014,” the report noted.
There had been rising speculation for weeks about Kim’s health after the North Korean leader was not seen at an event on April 15, marking the birthday of his late grandfather, the country’s founding father. Kim also missed a military exercise that accompanied the ceremony, a rarity for the North Korean leader. The North Korean government, which is normally very tight-lipped about internal matters especially the health of its leaders, added to the mystery by not making a public statement on the reports of Kim’s death.
Reports over the weekend claimed that Kim had died, but subsequent statements from some world leaders cast doubt on that. Some top South Korean officials said that Kim was believed to be in hiding in the coastal resort city of Wonsan, where he reportedly was staying to avoid an outbreak of coronavirus in his inner circle.
“He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13,” Chung-in Moon, foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, told Fox News. “No suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
There were still some conflicting reports, with South Korea’s Tonhap news agency reporting on Kim’s apparent appearance on Friday not long after another report from a North Korean defector claiming with “99 percent certainty” that Kim had died.
American President Donald Trump also pushed back against reports that Kim was dead, saying he believed they were based on older reports. But American officials still did not know Kim’s whereabouts or his exact condition, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said this week.