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Hello world! Kim Jong-un resurfaces after 20 day absence

Jack Burton

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PHOTO: AFP

Dispelling recent rumours that he was in a “vegetative state” or even dead after an apparent heart attack and a botched surgery, North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has resurfaced and made his first public appearance after a 20 day absence. Well, either him or a very good replica.

North Korean state media reported today that he “celebrated the completion of a fertiliser factory near Pyongyang, the hermit nation’s capital.

North Korea’s state news agency Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim attended the ceremony yesterday with other senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many pundits predicted would take over if her brother were suddenly unable to run the show.

The state Rodong Sinmun newspaper published photos of Kim wearing black and smiling as he waddled around the factory and cut a huge red ribbon.

Hello world! Kim Jong-un resurfaces after 20 day absence | News by Thaiger

PHOTO: KCNA via Reuters

The KCNA said workers 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,'” a clear reference to US-led sanctions over the country’s nuclear ambitions, though the report made no direct mention of Washington or Seoul.

The agency said Kim “warmly acknowledged the workers” and said his late father and grandfather “would be greatly pleased” that the factory was completed.

US President Donald Trump declined to comment about Kim’s reappearance this week but remarked that he would “have something to say about it at the appropriate time.”

It was the autocratic ruler’s first public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a ruling Workers’ Party meeting to discuss the Covid-19 coronavirus and reappoint his sister as an alternate member of the powerful decisionmaking political bureau of the party’s central committee, a move that confirmed her substantial role in the government.

Speculation about his health was rampant 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 assuming power in 2011.

Without providing evidence, state media reported he was “carrying out routine activities outside public view,” such as sending greetings to the leaders of Syria, Cuba and South Africa and expressing gratitude to workers building tourist facilities in the coastal town of Wonsan, where some speculated he was staying.

South Korea, which has at best a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang’s ruling elite, downplayed rumours that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery.

The possibly 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 US mainland, while diplomacy between Kim and Trump has stalled.

Following an unusually provocative run of missile and nuclear tests in 2017, Kim used the Winter Olympics in South Korea to initiate diplomacy with Washington and Seoul in 2018. This led to a surprising series of summits, including three between Kim and Trump himself, as Kim pursued diplomacy in hopes of ending crippling economic sanctions and obtaining security guarantees.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused Kim’s absence in past weeks. In 2014, Kim vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks and then reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said he’d had a cyst removed from his ankle.

Analysts say his health could increasingly become a factor in the years ahead: he’s obese, smokes and drinks, and has a family history of heart issues.

If he’s suddenly unable to rule, may analysts said his sister will be installed as leader to continue Pyongyang’s dynasty that began after World War II. But others question whether core members of the country’s elite, mostly men in their 60s or 70s, wouldn’t accept a young, untested female leader who lacks military credentials. Some predict a collective leadership or violent power struggles.

SOURCE: AP

 

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Jack Burton is an American writer, broadcaster, linguist and journalist who has lived in Asia since 1987. A native of the state of Georgia, he attended the The University of Georgia's Henry Grady School of Journalism, which hands out journalism's prestigious Peabody Awards. His works have appeared in The China Post, The South China Morning Post, The International Herald Tribune and many magazines throughout Asia and the world. He is fluent in Mandarin and has appeared on television and radio for decades in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau.

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