North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reappeared in public after nearly three weeks, putting an end to rampant speculation that he was dead or incapacitated, South Korea’s news agencies reported.
Kim Jong-un was last reported in public on April 11 at a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers Party.
The North Korean leader attended a ceremony marking the completion of a fertilizer plant in Sunchon, a town about 45 km north of the capital, Pyongyang, according to North Korean media.
Rumors about his health spread quickly after he failed to appear four days later at celebrations of the birthday of North Korea’s first leader Kim Il Sung. The rumors had subsequently gone into overdrive, claiming that he 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.
South Korean unification minister, Kim Yeonchul, had called the reports “fake news,” saying that Seoul could say “confidently” that there was no evidence to confirm rumors that Kim Jong-un was gravely ill. Amid the reports, North Korea had continued to send out letters and gifts to foreign leaders and domestic workers under Kim Jong-un’s name.
Some analyst speculated that Kim Jong-un might be trying to avoid crowds amid the COVID-19 pandemic.