N Korea’s Kim Jong Un appears in public amid health rumours

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 rumours 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, his sister looking from behind.

In this Friday, May 1, 2020, photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, cuts a tape during his visit to a fertilizer factory in South Pyongan, near Pyongyang, North Korea. (PHOTO: Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

One of the photos showed him smiling and clapping with his sister and other senior officials under a sign that read “Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory: Completion Ceremony: May 1, 2020.” Seemingly thousands of workers, many of them masked, stood in lines at the massive complex, releasing balloons into the air.

The images gave no clear sign that Kim was in discomfort. He wasn’t seen with a walking stick, like the one he used in 2014 when he was recovering from a presumed ankle surgery. However, one of the photos at the factory showed a green electric cart, which appeared similar to a vehicle he used in 2014.

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.

More details on Borneo Bulletin Sunday