North Korea’s Kim Jong Un appears in public amid health rumors
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made his first public appearance in 20 days as he celebrated the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang, state media said Saturday, ending an absence that had triggered global rumors that he may be seriously ill.
The North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim attended the ceremony Friday in Sunchon with other senior officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule.
The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper published several photos of Kim wearing black and smiling as he looked around the factory and cut a red ribbon.
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 U.S.-led sanctions over the North’s nuclear ambitions.
The agency said Kim warmly acknowledged the workers and said his late father and grandfather “would be greatly pleased” the factory was completed. The report didn’t mention any direct comment toward Washington or Seoul.
U.S. President Donald Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, declined to comment about Kim’s reappearance but said he would “have something to say about it at the appropriate time.”
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. That move confirmed her substantial role in the government.