Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, has appeared in public for the first in over two weeks, after rumours of his death had circulated widely.
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According to the state-run KCNA news agency, Kim appeared at a fertiliser factory in a region north of Pyongyang, which he commissioned on Friday.
Kim was accompanied by several senior North Korean officials, including his sister Kim Yo Jong, the agency reported.
State media later released images that it said showed Kim cutting a ribbon outside a factory.
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The images saw many of the attendees wearing face masks as part of preventive measures against the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), although Kim and other personalities on the stage were not spotted wearing one.
People who attended the event “burst into thunderous cheers of ‘hurrah!’ for the Supreme Leader who is commanding the all-people general march for accomplishing the great cause of prosperity”, KCNA reports.
The reported appearance – his first since an event on state media on 12 April – comes amid global speculation over his health.
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Speculation about Kim’s health began after he missed the birth anniversary celebrations of his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, founder of the North Korean state, on 15 April.
The anniversary is one of the biggest events in the North Korean calendar, and Kim usually marks it by visiting the mausoleum where his grandfather lies. His absence at the event – which he had never since assuming control as the country’s leader – raised a lot of questions, particularly from the Western media and intelligence.
Claims about Kim’s ill-health then surfaced in a report for a website run by North Korean defectors.
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An anonymous source told the Daily NK that they understood he had been struggling with cardiovascular problems since last August “but it worsened after repeated visits to Mount Paektu”.
Kim’s latest reappearance as reported by the North Korean media could not be independently confirmed as the country rarely grants access to foreign journalists and its borders are closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.