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Kim Jong Un makes first public appearance in 20 days amid rumours of ill health

The Korean Central News Agency reported that Kim attended the ceremony Friday in Sunchon with other senior officials.

In this 1 May photo provided by the North Korean government, leader Kim Jong Un visits a fertilizer factory in Sunchon, South Pyongan province, near Pyongyang, North Korea.
In this 1 May photo provided by the North Korean government, leader Kim Jong Un visits a fertilizer factory in Sunchon, South Pyongan province, near Pyongyang, North Korea.
Image: AP/Press Association Images

KIM JONG UN has made his first public appearance in 20 days amid speculation about his health.

The North Korean leader cut the ribbon at the opening of a fertiliser factory in Sunchon at a ceremony with other senior officials.

These included his sister Kim Yo Jong, who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule.

State media said workers at the factory 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 “headwind” by “hostile forces”.

It was Kim’s first public appearance since 11 April, 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.

addition-north-korea-kim Kim Jong Un cuts a tape, watched by his sister Kim Yo Jong, during his visit to the fertilizer factory in Sunchon. Source: PA

dprk-kim-jong-un-phosphatic-fertilizer-factory-completion-ceremony Source: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

Speculation about his health ramped up after he missed the 15 April birthday celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, the country’s most important holiday, for the first time since taking power in 2011.

The possibility of high-level instability raised troubling questions about the future of the secretive, nuclear-armed state that has been steadily building an arsenal meant to threaten the US mainland while diplomacy between Kim and US President Donald Trump has stalled.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump declined to comment about Kim’s reappearance but said he would “have something to say about it at the appropriate time”.

State media reported Kim was carrying out routine activities outside public view, such as sending greetings to the leaders of Syria, Cuba and South Africa and expressing gratitude to workers building tourist facilities in the coastal town of Wonsan, where some speculated he was staying.

South Korea’s government, which has a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang’s ruling elite, repeatedly downplayed speculation that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery.

It was not immediately clear what caused Kim’s absence in recent weeks.

In 2014, Kim vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks and then reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.

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