Kim Jong Un reappears in state media following 21-day absence

Trump mum on Kim’s reported public appearance
Kim Jong Un was on Saturday reported to have attended a ribbon cutting event at the Sunchon fertilizer factory, in the North Korean leader’s first public appearance in state media in 21 days.
In an appearance which followed a storm of international media speculation about the whereabouts of the DPRK leader, a state media radio news broadcast said he had conducted the inspection visit on Friday, to mark May 1’s International Labor Day.
Kim was joined by his sister, Kim Yo Jong, as well as top officials Pak Pong Ju, Kim Dok Hun, Pak Thae Song, and Jo Yong Won, the news broadcast said.
The North Korean leader, who reportedly cut the ribbon at the ceremony, last visited the facility on January 7, 2020, according to data on the NK Pro Leadership Tracker.
Saturday’s report represents Kim’s first appearance in state media since April 12, when he appeared in ruling party daily the Rodong Sinmun overseeing a meeting of the country’s Politburo.
He was then notably absent at an event held to mark the 108th birthday of his grandfather, North Korea’s founding President Kim Il Sung — a first under his leadership.
Reports emerged from the Seoul-based Daily NK outlet that the North Korean leader had undergone heart surgery, with an unnamed U.S. official later telling CNN that Kim was in “grave danger.”
Those claims sparked a storm of online speculation about Kim’s health and whereabouts — and widespread concerns about North Korea’s lack of a clear succession structure should the DPRK leader pass away.
But while multiple media outlets had already declared Kim to have died last week, state media continued to report that the DPRK leader had been sending letters from his office — a sign, some experts told NK News, that he was still alive.
Satellite imagery analysed in separate reports by 38 North and NK News’s sister site NK Pro also appeared to confirm claims that he was alive and well, showing a train and a number of luxury boats frequently used by the leader in use in the area.
And while the U.S. had appeared reluctant to officially comment on the rumors, South Korean officials repeatedly insisted that nothing was amiss in the North and that the DPRK leader staying near the east coast city of Wonsan.
Asked to comment on Kim’s reappearance as a press conference on Friday local time, U.S. President Donald Trump declined to comment.
Chris Green, a lecturer at the University of Leiden and a contributing analyst to NK News‘s sister site NK Pro, said the storm of speculation in recent days — fueled in large part by extensive media coverage of who might succeed Kim Jong Un — offered valuable lessons.
“It is easy to rain on the people who over-played their hand on this and ended up embroiled in rampant speculation, but much more productive to use it as an opportunity to learn where the proper expertise resides: those organisations with networks inside North Korea, a large handful of very well-informed defectors, and South Korean intelligence,” he said.
“Since the analytical community regularly pours scorn down on all three of those categories, this ought to be a salutary lesson.”
Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump declined on Friday to comment on the report of Kim’s first public appearance since April 11, reports Reuters.
“I’d rather not comment on it yet,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “We’ll have something to say about it at the appropriate time.”
Trump has been unusually restrained on the subject of Kim since questions about the North Korean leader’s whereabouts and health surfaced last month.
The two leaders have held three summits on efforts to persuade North Korea to denuclearize and, while Trump and Kim have gotten along well, no agreement has been achieved.
Asked by Reuters what he knew about Kim in an interview on Wednesday, Trump said, “I know everything,” but would not be drawn out on any details.

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