Kim Jong Un Appears In Public After Weeks Of Health Speculation, State Media Reports

The dictator – who had recently missed the country's most important holiday – reportedly attended the opening of a fertiliser factory.

Kim Jong Un has made his first public appearance in weeks amid mounting speculation over his health.

According to state media, the North Korean dictator cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon at a ceremony with other senior officials.

These included his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule.

Reports from state media said workers at the factory 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”.

It was Kim’s first public appearance since April 11, when he presided over a ruling Workers’ Party meeting to discuss the coronavirus and reappoint his sister as an alternate member of the powerful decision-making Political Bureau of the party’s Central Committee.

Speculation about his health ramped up 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 taking power in 2011.

The possibility 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 US president Donald Trump has stalled.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump declined to comment on Kim’s reappearance but said he would “have something to say about it at the appropriate time”.

State media reported Kim 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’s government, which has a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang’s ruling elite, repeatedly downplayed speculation that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery.

It was not immediately clear what caused Kim’s absence in recent weeks, but it’s not the first time he has temporarily disappeared from the public eye.

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 had a cyst removed from his ankle.