President Donald Trump responded to reports about North Korean despot Kim Jong Un, reposting state media photos that purport to show Kim attending a ceremony at a fertilizer factory.
“I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Kim’s attendance at the ribbon-cutting ceremony was the first public appearance he’s made in about three weeks, and it comes amid speculation about his health. Several news outlets in Asia had reported that Kim, 36, was brain dead or had died, although South Korean officials said he was alive and still in control of the regime.
I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well! https://t.co/mIWVeRMnOJ
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2020
An adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in told news outlets that Kim had been staying in the Wonsan area since mid-April and noted that “no suspicious movements have so far been detected.”
Questions arose about Kim’s health after he missed the celebration of his grandfather, the regime’s founder, Kim Il Sung—an event that he’s attended every year since he took power in 2011.
At the same time, during the speculation about his death, North Korean state media didn’t respond. The impoverished communist country still hasn’t publicly responded to reports about his health, which is considered a matter of state security.
North Korea tightly controls all information about its leader, the subject of an extensive personality cult. Meanwhile, a power vacuum at the top could lead to a civil war-like scenario, as Kim has not named a potential successor, according to experts, although some have said that his sister, Kim Yo Jong, could be tapped to become the next leader.
South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Kim’s absence from the ceremony wasn’t unusual.
“It is true that he had never missed the anniversary for Kim Il Sung’s birthday since he took power, but many anniversary events including celebrations and a banquet had been canceled because of coronavirus concerns,” the minister told a parliamentary hearing, Reuters reported last week.
“I don’t think that’s particularly unusual given the current [CCP virus] situation.”