World Bulletin/News Desk
The mystery surrounding the health of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un deepened when he failed to appear at an event Friday to pay homage to the country’s two previous leaders, his father and grandfather.
Despite the insistence of officials in South Korea that Kim remains in control of the country – the south hosted a high-level visit of North Korean second-in-command Hwang Pyong-so last weekend – Kim’s failure to mark the 69th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of Korea has only increased speculation.
For the previous two anniversaries, the 31-year-old has visited the mausoleum where his predecessors are interred.
Speaking at a news briefing Friday, Seoul’s Unification Ministry Spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said: “It seems that Kim Jong-un’s rule is in normal operation.”
He added: “With regard to his specific health conditions, our government has no information to confirm yet.”
Kim became supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea after his father Kim Jong-il died in late 2011. The elder Kim had succeeded his own father Kim Il-sung, the 1948 founder of the Stalinist state, in 1994.
Since taking control, Kim has consolidated his position with a number of changes to Pyongyang’s hierarchy – including the notorious purge that led to the execution of his own uncle Jang Song-thaek last year.
There has been no public sighting or official word of Kim since he attended a concert in Pyongyang on September 3. His absence has led to speculation ranging from health problems such as gout or diabetes to the staging of a coup.
Questions over his health were raised this year when he was seen limping in footage released by state media. Doubts intensified when he missed a session of the Supreme People's Assembly last month.
Then there was surprise last Saturday when Hwang, a member of the powerful Organization and Guidance Department, arrived in Seoul unannounced for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games.
In Kim’s absence, the question of who is running the country has brought his younger sister to foreign attention. Kim Yo-jong is in her mid-twenties and, like her brother, was educated in Switzerland.
The North Korea Intellectuals’ Solidarity, a Seoul-based think-tank run by defectors, claimed she was deputizing for her brother.
It is not the first time Kim has been missing from the public eye. In June 2012 he was not reported on or photographed by state media, which usually carries a large number of items on the leader, for 23 days.
But with Kim out of the spotlight for 37 days since the concert, it will likely take clear evidence of his well-being to calm rumors about the fate of the latest member of Korea’s ruling dynasty.Last Mod: 10 Ekim 2014, 12:16