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Video Shows Kim Jong-un is Reportedly Back After a Six-Week Absence

The North Korean leader's disappearance had led to speculation he was seriously ill or had even been toppled in a coup.
October 14, 2014, 12:10pm
Image via Reuters

Further dispelling some of the rumors surrounding his lengthy absence from the public eye, a video clip from a North Korean television show features a report showing leader Kim Jong-un on a field tour of a recently built residential quarters for scientists. Although the timing of the video has not been confirmed, the leader can be seen in photos looking at the housing and other public buildings on site. In some photos Kim can be seen leaning on, walking with, or sat beside a cane. According to the news report, the leader apparently expressed satisfaction with the new construction and said the buildings were "good looking."

The video emerged as reports surfaced that Kim had reappeared in public after an absence of almost six weeks, laying to rest rumors that the 32-year-old dictator might have been taken seriously ill or ousted from power.

The country's official news agency KCNA reported on Tuesday that Kim "gave field guidance" at a new living quarter for scientists, while the face of the Supreme Leader grinned broadly from the front page of the daily newspaper Rodong Sinmun.

The paper, the official publication of the Communist Party's Central Committee, carried several images of Kim walking with a stick as he inspected the Wisong Scientists Residential District.

"Watching the exterior of the apartment houses and public buildings nicely decorated with diverse color tiles, he was very pleased to see them," the daily reported. "He said they looked very attractive, presenting fantastic scenery."

It quoted the North Korean leader as having declared: "Our scientists are patriots who are devoting all their lives to building a rich and powerful nation, convinced that though there is no frontier in science, they have a socialist motherland and are under the care of the mother party. There is nothing to spare for them. It is necessary to project and treat scientists preferentially and always take care of them."

Kim Jong-un has been absent from public view since September 3, prompting speculation that all might not be well in Pyongyang. Official media would only attribute his disappearance to personal "discomfort" — but outlets in South Korea and elsewhere suggested he might be suffering from gout or had an issue with his hip.

One, South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper, quoted a Pyongyang source as saying that the Supreme Leader was now so fat due to his rich diet that his ankles had fractured under his own weight.

Others went further, suggesting he might have been toppled in a coup. That theory was bolstered by the sudden and highly unusual appearance of a North Korean delegation in its southern rival ten days ago, the first such visit by top Pyongyang officials in more than five years.

The mission to South Korea was led by Hwang Pyong-so, the general said by many to be number two in the hermit nation's hierarchy. But during the visit reported on Tuesday, Hwang was pictured as an attentive and submissive member of Kim's entourage, which followed the North Korean leader with notebooks in hand as he toured the site.

Pyongyang has seen its fair share of blood-letting since Kim Jong-un inherited power from his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011. In December last year his uncle and key adviser Jang Song Thaek was dragged from a Politburo meeting in a dramatic and highly public purge, images of which then circulated around the world.

He was later accused of plotting a coup and executed, an official statement claiming that "despicable human scum Jang, who was worse than a dog, perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal of such profound trust and warmest paternal love shown by the party and the leader for him."

However, the insular nature of North Korea leaves an information vacuum often filled with myths and speculation. In one such case, a well-known North Korean singer and a former girlfriend of the dictator was last year reportedly executed by firing squad along with several other performers after being accused of making a sex tape — apparently due to the machinations of Kim's wife — only to reappear alive and well on state television in May.

Follow Hannah Strange on Twitter: @hannahkstrange