By Hojin Choi
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
PYONGYANG, North Korea – The North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, appeared in public view having an “on-site guidance trip” according to a North Korea’s state-run media, the Korean Central News Agency. In photos, Mr. Kim was walking with a cane, which gives credence to the theory that he had been suffering from leg pains and had surgery recently.
Mr. Kim, known to be 30, had been absent from the public since September 3, and there had been much speculation about his status. First, he was thought to have health problems as a few foreign doctors had been witnessed entering North Korea. Moreover, Mr. Kim was seen limping in early July on North Korean television. A few months later, a state-run television mentioned his health status, noting that he “was not feeling well.” According to statements of the former personal doctor of Mr. Kim’s grandfather, he inherited a number of health problems from his ancestors, such as psychological problems and obesity.
Another rumor indicated he lost power over the North Korean Communist Party and the military hierarchy. During 2014 Incheon Asian Game, which was recently held in South Korea, three core members of the North’s politics and military surprisingly visited the South together. They are ranked in the governmental hierarchy as numbers 2 to 4, and it was the first time after the Korean War that these high-ranking officials visited the South at the same time.
According to the news agency, Mr. Kim took a trip to the new residential complex and “inspected” it. He also visited the Natural Energy Institute of the State Academy of Sciences. Reportedly, Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, the 2nd ranking official in the North, accompanied Mr. Kim during the trip. Mr. Kim’s wife and sister were also walking closely with him.
The Washington Post analyzed Mr. Kim as comparatively “more open” than his grandfather and father, the preceding leaders of North Korea. John Delury, an expert on North Korea at Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, said that “there is a pattern here of being more forthcoming, a little less cryptic.” There had been rumors whether Mr. Kim had successfully taken over the power from his father because he was too young and inexperienced, but “by appearing in public, Kim wanted to show the world he still rules the state,” said Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.
Nothing has been clearly proven about the political stability of the new regime, but it remains the world’s most isolated and authoritative country under the young leader.
For more information please see:
The New York Times – North Korea’s Kim Jong-un Reappears in Public, North’s Media Reports – 13 October 2014
NBC News – North Korea’s Kim Jong Un Ends Long Public Absence – 14 October 2014
The Washington Post – As Kim Jong Un returns, North Korea becomes slightly more open – 14 October 2014
CNN – North Korea says leader has reappeared – 14 October 2014
Bloomberg – North Korea Shows Kim With Cane in 1st Sighting in Weeks – 13 October 2014