SEOUL (AA) – North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has made an abrupt return to the public spotlight after a 41-day absence, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Tuesday.
Appearing with a walking stick at a newly-completed apartment complex for satellite scientists in the capital Pyongyang to give “field guidance,” Kim’s return came without explanation for his prolonged spell out of the public eye.
There was no indication as to when the photographs of Kim, who missed the important 69th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea last week, were taken.
However, they clearly depict Kim as the center of power, even if the stills do not show how well he is able to walk.
Korera-watchers were thrown into a fury of speculation by Kim’s absence, particularly when Hwang Pyong-so, the country’s effective No 2 and a member of the powerful Organization and Guidance Department, arrived in the South for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games.
Theories ranged from health problems such as an injured ankle, gout or diabetes, to the staging of a coup.
It was the second time Kim, who is in his early 30s, had dropped from public view since coming to power in late 2011. In June 2012 he was not reported on or photographed by state media, which usually focuses its coverage on the Kims, for 23 days.
North Korea’s state newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, also featured the story and pictures of the same visit Tuesday.
Hwang appeared alongside Kim, scotching rumors of a possible rift.
According to Seoul-based news agency Yonhap, the South’s government is placing significance on Kim’s choice of venue given the current intensification of international interest in North Korean affairs.
“It may have some indications related with [his regime’s] policy of simultaneously developing its nuclear program and economy,” a senior unification ministry official was quoted.
Kim has had to consolidate his position as the third generation of Kims to rule the North since 1948. His father, Kim Jong-il, was also the subject of worldwide scrutiny during periods of rumored ill-health.
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