Kim Jong-un Resurfaces, State Media Says, After Weeks of Health Rumors

North Korea’s state news agency on Saturday released this photo of Kim Jong-un, which it said was taken Friday at a fertilizer plant. His sister, Kim Yo-jong, is in the background.Credit…KCNA, via Reuters

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, resurfaced in public view on Friday, the North’s state news media reported Saturday, controverting three weeks of rumors and unconfirmed news reports that he was in grave danger after undergoing heart surgery.

He appeared at a ceremony at a factory in the city of Sunchon, the North’s state news agency said, later releasing photos from the event. The report could not immediately be independently confirmed.

Mr. Kim, 36, had last appeared publicly on April 11. Speculation about his health — and about who would take over the hermetic, nuclear-armed country should he become incapacitated or die — began swirling after Mr. Kim missed the state celebrations of his country’s biggest holiday on April 15. On that day, the North marks the birthday of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the country’s founder.

Rumors subsequently went into overdrive, claiming that Mr. Kim was “in grave danger,” in a “vegetative state” after botched heart-valve surgery, or in quarantine after contracting Covid-19. Other reports said that China had sent doctors to Pyongyang to save him.

After its initial report on Saturday, the North Korean news agency released photos showing a smiling Mr. Kim applauding, cutting a ribbon and standing with his hands behind his back at a new fertilizer factory.

“All the participants again burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah,’” the news agency said, taking its characteristically fulsome tone for coverage of the leader. It said that Mr. Kim “warmly acknowledged the builders and masses raising thunderous cheers” and went on to tour the factory, accompanied by senior officials from the ruling Workers’ Party, including his only sister, Kim Yo-jong.

Although no outside media was apparently allowed to witness the ceremony, the report by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency followed a familiar pattern. State media typically reports Mr. Kim’s public appearances a day after they take place, carrying photos from the scene as well.

The South Korean government did not immediately comment on the report, but it has pushed back against the recent speculation that Mr. Kim was in poor health. Its unification minister, Kim Yeon-chul, had called the reports “fake news,” saying that South Korea could say “confidently” that there was no evidence to confirm the rumors.

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Source: New York Times

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