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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Michael Havis & Graeme Murray

Kim Jong-un disappears from public life for month with mystery growing over absence

North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un has vanished from the public eye and not been seen in propaganda for almost a month despite multiple missile tests.

The secretive state today fired two short-range missiles into the sea, launching them east towards Japan, only days after sending another rocket over the island nation.

The dictator has often overseen tests personally, posing for photos as he does, yet despite ordering six launches in 12 days, no new images of him have emerged since September 10.

Now fears are mounting that the tyrant is facing a fresh health scare.

Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean elite, highlighted that it was not the first time Kim Jong-un had taken a break from the spotlight.

He continued: “That said, there are some speculative factors behind his lengthy public absences.

“First, there is a question of his overall health. At least one of his public absences can be tied directly to medical problems.

“Following his first long public absence in 2014, he was shown using a cane at his first few public events.

Kim Jong-un in his last known public appearance, meeting healthcare workers in Pyongyang on September 9. (Credit: Pen News)

“There is speculation that he underwent some type of medical procedure during a long absence in April 2020, but in retrospect he may have been avoiding contracting Covid-19.

“So, outside observers might ask if he has some type of condition or physical limitation which only allows him to take part in public engagements on a more limited basis.”

It’s not the first time questions have been raised about the dictator’s health in recent weeks.

In August, an analysis of his recent public appearances highlighted several occasions when he had unexplained marks on his head – believed to be bruising from injections.

However, Mr Madden – a fellow of The Stimson Center in Washington DC who also runs the North Korea Leadership Watch website – emphasised that there were other explanations too.

Remarkably, it could even be that Kim is laying low for fear of public opinion.

Mysterious black mark is seen on Kim's head as he meets healthcare officials earlier this year (Credit: Pen News)

He said: “Internal economic and societal conditions are meager at best. There is belt tightening all over the country.

“Numerous North Korean citizens, including university students, have been mobilised to work in places like mines and construction projects.

“They have upped social and population controls. This mix can create very tense internal circumstances which can undercut public approval.

“There is certainly a possibility that the regime's handling of the pandemic and decision to continue ballistic missile testing rather than import food is creating a fledgling conflict between the regime and its citizens."

The dictator was last publicly seen on September 9 when he posed in Pyongyang with health workers battling the pandemic.

A photo was released the following day.

Around the same time, he was seen with his wife and sister watching a performance celebrating North Korea’s National Day.

Kim Jong-un in his last known public appearance, meeting healthcare workers in Pyongyang (Credit: Pen News)

Sensationally, it’s been speculated that one of the performers was Kim Ju-ae – the dictator’s only known child – in her first public appearance.

Kim’s current spell of absence is his longest this year and, once it reaches 35 days, will be his longest since 2014 – when he was also thought to be battling health problems.

A big moment will be whether he attends Party Foundation Day on October 10, when the ruling party celebrates its 77th anniversary.

He hasn’t missed that occasion for four years.

Kim at celebrations for North Korea's National Day last month (Credit: Pen News)

That day also marks Kim Jong-un’s deadline to build a new greenhouse farm and he could attend the grand opening – though North Korea’s construction projects often overrun.

However, spooks in neighbouring South Korea have reportedly told lawmakers that they believe Kim is not currently dealing with any significant health issues.

And if something is wrong with the leader, even the North Korean elite may only have a few clues.

Mr Madden noted that party chiefs may continue to get fresh paperwork signed by the boss, even if he’s not making public appearances.

He's vanished from the public eye for almost a month (Credit: Pen News)

He said: “Kim Jong-un's office produces a steady stream of official documents which he has purportedly reviewed with his close aides and advisers.

“There is evidence that he has outsourced some of this document review process to trusted proxies like his sister Kim Yo-jong, but there are still items which require his oversight.”

Though he noted that this process could be manipulated too and was in 2008, when the dictator’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong-il, suffered a pair of strokes.

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