Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


North Korean leader reappears in public with cane

16 October 2014, 07:43

Seoul - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, smiling broadly and supporting himself with a cane, appeared Tuesday in state media for the first time in nearly six weeks, ending an absence that fed global speculation that something was amiss with the country's most powerful person.

The sudden resumption of the "field guidance" tours that had been a regular part of Kim's public persona before he stopped showing up in media reports for 40 days allowed the country's massive propaganda apparatus to continue doing what it does best — glorifying the third generation of Kim family rule. And it will tamp down, at least for the moment, rampant rumors of a coup and serious health problems.

Kim, while touring the newly built Wisong Scientists Residential District and another new institute in Pyongyang, "took necessary steps with loving care," a dispatch early Tuesday from the official Korean Central News Agency said in typical fawning style. The North didn't say when the visit happened, nor did it address the leader's health.

The recent absence was, in part, "probably an attention-getting device and it certainly works," Bruce Cumings, an expert on Korea at the University of Chicago, said in an email.

"The North has been on a diplomatic offensive in Europe and elsewhere, it feels isolated and is, if we're talking about relations with Washington. All this puts them back on the front page."

Before Tuesday's dispatch, Kim had last been seen publicly at a Sept. 3 concert.

Foreign media had no trouble filling the void that followed. From "Saturday Night Live" spoofs to the wild theories of journalists across the globe trying to parse his growing absence from the public eye, Kim captured nearly as many headlines as he did when he threatened to nuke his enemies last year.

This ability to command attention by doing nothing says a lot about the North's propaganda focus on Kim as the center of everything. Remove for 40 days the sun around which that propaganda spins and the international media, both traditional and social, exploded with curiosity.

And while there was plenty of informed analysis from experts and frequent visitors to Pyongyang that said it probably wasn't anything that serious, there seemed to be even more thinly sourced speculation.

Kim was, by turns, reported to be suffering from gout, from diabetes, from a brain hemorrhage, from a heart ailment, from a leg injury that required surgery from a French doctor, from mental illness or, according to a head-turning British report, from a cheese addiction. There were rumors of a coup.

The speculation was partly a result of Kim missing several high-profile events that he normally attends and his description in an official documentary last month as experiencing "discomfort." Archive footage from August showed him overweight and limping.

The South Korean government, however, saw no signs to indicate any major problems.

At a South Korean parliamentary hearing Monday, Choi Yoon-hee, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a lawmaker that whatever health problems Kim might have, they "are not severe enough to disrupt his status as the ruler of the country."

No unusual troop movements or other signs of a possible coup have emerged. Diplomacy at the highest level has continued: Three members of his inner circle made a surprise visit to the South, something analysts say would be impossible without the leader's blessing. Foreign tourists and aid workers are still traveling to the North, and there have been no reports of new restrictions or warnings for diplomats.

There's also nothing particularly unusual about North Korean leaders laying low for extended periods. Kim's grandfather, Kim Il Sung, and father, Kim Jong Il, both took long, unexplained breaks from work, often leading to similar rumors in Seoul and beyond of coups and sudden death. Kim Jong Un, who seems to genuinely like being at the center of things, took off without a word for three weeks in 2012.

Part of the interest in Kim's absence also stemmed from worries about what would happen to the country if the leader died without securing a succession.

Kim Jong Un's two older brothers, for whatever reasons, were deemed unfit to rule by Kim Jong Il, and little is known about Kim Jong Un's sister.

Kim reportedly does have a direct heir who may one day extend the Kim dynasty into a fourth generation. Probably not soon, though. She's believed to be a toddler.

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Mudavadi given permission to join...

Musalia Mudavadi has been ghranted permission by his party to join the CORD Coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
EACC officers raid Deputy Governo...

EACC officers raided the home of a Deputy Governor as theft case continues in court. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
New IEBC bosses to be named Novem...

New IEBC bosses will be named on November 30. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
DP Ruto has spoilt my name, activ...

DP William Ruto has spoilt my name, activist complains. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
Apologise for attack on Auditor G...

Apologise for attack on Auditor General, President Uhuru Kenyatta is told by Kisumu Senator Anyang Nyong'o. Read more...