Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public for two weeks now, according to a report from South Korean news agency Yonhap. The last sighting of Kim came on April 1, when he led a session of parliament.
Kim Jong-un can usually be seen in state media making several trips a month to various sites in North Korea (military bases are a favorite destination). However, official state news agency KCNA has not featured a story on a Kim outing for over a fortnight. He is, for all intents and purposes, invisible.
The absence of North Korea’s Supreme Leader from the public eye has triggered all sorts of conspiracy theories. Some suggest his reduced visibility is designed to cool tensions on the Korean peninsula, and it’s true to say that Kim’s disappearance has coincided with a slight reduction in North Korean threats.
Others believe Kim may be due a public comeback on April 15. As the birthday of North Korean founder and ‘Eternal Leader’ Kim Il-sung, the day is the most important in the North Korean calendar. The country regularly uses the date to stage displays of its military might, and Kim would be expected to attend.
There are also fears the country may use the anniversary date to launch mid-range missiles currently positioned on its eastern coast. Yonhap suggests the leader’s absence amounts to “psychological warfare that could grab attention from South Korea and the United States.”
Some speculation even suggests a military-led coup has taken place in Pyongyang, though many commentators think this is fanciful.
Alternatively, Kim could just be preparing for the return of old buddy Dennis Rodman.
Of course, it could also mean very little. The Atlantic reminds us that Kim has previously been dubbed a “hermit king”; temporary Kim disappearances are not untypical.
As usual, second-guessing North Korea is tricky. What do you make of Kim Jong-un’s sudden departure from the public eye?