North Korean leader Kim Jong Un misses shrine visit, KCNA reports
The mystery surrounding the whereabouts of Kim Jong Un deepened Friday after the North Korean leader appeared to have missed a ceremony to pay tribute to his late father and grandfather on what is an important national anniversary.
Kim’s name was absent from the list of attendees at the Kamsusuan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang on the 69th anniversary of the Workers’ Party of North Korea, issued by state news agency KCNA on Friday.
The Workers’ Party, founded in 1945, is North Korea’s political party and is considered one of the country’s most crucial institutions alongside the military.
According to KCNA, flowers were presented at the shrine in Kim’s name, but the most senior official to attend was Hwang Pyong So, North Korea’s second most important leader, who recently attended the closing ceremony of the 17th Asian Games in South Korea.
Kim hasn’t been seen in public since he reportedly attended a concert with his wife on September 3. It’s his longest absence from official events since he made his first public appearance in 2010, NK News said.
Analysts are puzzled and speculation is running rampant about why Kim has been out of the public eye.State media attempted to explain his absence by saying Kim was experiencing “discomfort.”
He had been seen hobbling earlier in the summer, prompting theories ranging from weight gain to gout. There have also been questions about the possible meaning behind his absence: Is he genuinely sick or are there machinations within the North Korean power circle?
Is Kim Jong Un’s sister in charge?”Whenever someone doesn’t show up in the public, we tend to speculate something of a power struggle,” said Han Park, author of “North Korea Demystified.”
Because not much is known about North Korea’s internal politics, observers scrutinize public functions and ceremonies to see who appears and who does not.
“We’re always operating on this incomplete info,” said Joshua Stanton, a North Korea observer who created the website One Free Korea, which is critical of the regime.
Drawing conclusions about what’s happening in North Korea has been likened to a Rorschach test — it’s a reflection of the views of whoever is drawing the conclusions, rather than an informed analysis based on facts. And the facts in the reclusive country are murky at best.
“People have a tendency to see the things they want to see,” Stanton said. “We should default to skepticism.”