North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has emerged back into the public eye this week after an extended absence, which fueled a host of rumors and theories about his health and well-being. While his appearance has served to quell rumors that the dictator is seriously ill, photographs from North Korean media have shown him walking with a cane, sparking more questions about his physical condition.
After a long absence, Kim Jong Un again graced the front page of North Korean newspapers, which depicted the leader smiling and maneuvering with a cane in his left hand. The images have given evidence to several new theories surrounding Kim’s health, including recent ankle surgery. Others have speculated that the dictator had been suffering from Gout.
In his first public appearance since he was last seen at a concert with his wife on Sept. 3, the media images showed Kim Jong Un taking a tour of the recently constructed Wisong Scientists Residential District with a host of senior military officials and party members in tow. The group viewed several new eight-story apartment buildings in the district and then continued the day with an inspection of a new building for an energy research institute in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. Before the dictator’s disappearance, such a scene was typical in North Korean Media.
Rumors surrounding the leader’s health started earlier this year when he was shown in August by North Korean media with a limp. Last month he was confirmed as “feeling unwell” by a state-operated television station, prompting a number of theories to emerge concerning Kim Jong Un’s health and the reasons behind his mysterious disappearance.
These rumors were fueled even further last week when the North Korean dictator reportedly missed a very important ceremonial anniversary for the ruling Worker’s Party of Korea. In previous years Kim Jong Un has marked the occasion with a tributary visit to the Kamsusan Palace of the Sun, where he has led senior party officials and military generals to the entombed bodies of his father and grandfather, both former leaders of North Korea. But the nation’s media failed to report Kim’s presence at the mausoleum last Friday, giving evidence to the suggestions that he was quite seriously indisposed.
However, Kim Jong-un’s recent emergence back into the public spotlight has subdued these theories, as well as the suggestion that the dictator had lost power. Kim reportedly looked jolly and happy as usual as he was routinely photographed for North Korean media.
While the use of the cane does support theories that Kim has been suffering from some sort of ailment, there is little doubt that the dictator’s mysterious absence and sudden re-appearance has served to push Kim Jong Un and North Korea into the world spotlight. Some have suggested that Kim’s actions are simply a propaganda move, one that has effectively placed him at the center of world attention for an extended period of time.
As with everything regarding North Korea, the true reasons behind Kim Jong Un’s 40-day disappearance are hard to confirm. But there is now little doubt that the leader is relatively healthy and still in power and has remained so during his disappearance. North Korea showed no other signs of unusual activity such as troop movements throughout the last 6 weeks and North Korean diplomats have continued to operate oversees, which some experts have stated would be impossible without their ruler’s blessing.
By Mathew Channer