Anniversary no-show fuels speculation over health of North Korean leader

Speculation about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un mounted after his name was missing from a list of dignitaries celebrating the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party.

His apparent no-show at the event will add to rumours that something is amiss with the authoritarian leader, who has not been seen publicly for more than a month. An official state media dispatch listed senior government, military and party officials who paid their respects at an event marking the party’s 69th anniversary — but not Kim.

It said a flower basket with Kim’s name on it was placed before statues of his father and grandfather, both of whom also ruled North Korea. State media said earlier that the might of the party “is growing stronger under the seasoned guidance of Marshal Kim Jong Un”.

Kim, who is thought to be 31, has not been seen performing his customary public duties in state media since he attended a concert on September 3. He had been walking with a limp and was more overweight than usual in images that aired before that.

An official documentary from late last month described him as dealing with “discomfort” which led to international speculation that he may be ill.

North Korea strictly controls information about its government and elite, so much of what happens in Pyongyang’s inner circles is hidden from the eyes of outsiders and even many average North Koreans. This leaves media in South Korea and elsewhere to speculate, sometimes wildly, about what is really going on. Some reports indicate that Kim could have gout, diabetes or even, as a British news story speculated, a cheese addiction. In Seoul, Unification Ministry spokesman Lim Byeong Cheol said Kim appeared to still be in charge of key affairs, although some reports said his sister had taken charge temporarily.


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