Kim Jong-Un Is Back, Cane In Tow — But What On Earth Has He Been Doing?
Gossip Girl here — your one and only source into the scandalous lives of North Korea's elite. Rumors flew when the North Korean supreme leader went missing for more than five weeks, but now state-run media is claiming that he's back and well, save for a new accessory. Spotted: Kim Jong-Un hobbling around a Pyongyang housing district with a cane, but where's he been? Once you start the rumor mill, it's going to take some angling to hush the whispers, especially when they involve a good, old-fashioned coup.
Well, at least one rumor was put to rest. According to North Korea's official KCNA news agency, Kim is alive and well and recently visited and inspected a housing development built for his country's satellite engineers. North Korea's main party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, featured Kim and his visit on the front page of its Tuesday edition, publishing several photos of a smiling Kim observing various property locations with the help of his cane as top military generals and aides walked alongside and took notes.
According to the New York Times' South Korean correspondent Choe Sang-hun, Kim expressed "great satisfaction" with the housing complex and posed for photos with the scientists who would inhabit it.
Why Is His Reappearance Significant?
Kim's suddenly reemergence raises more questions than it answers, at least for now. The dictator, who had last been seen at a Sept. 3 concert, has missed multiple key events in the past few weeks, sparking speculation that he was indisposed due to health problems, but a much more substantial theory was that he had been rendered powerless within his regime by a coup. Now that he's back in the spotlight with his usual inner circle, it may appear that a coup d'etat was just another rumor.
But now the public may be wondering about something else. The choice of public appearance — a housing inspection, essentially — feels arbitrary at best, considering Kim had missed several recent major events, such as Friday's anniversary celebration of the Korean Worker’s Party founding, which also included paying respects to his father and grandfather. So why now, and why a housing complex?
Could His Reappearance Be Irrelevant?
On the other hand, even if his reappearance confirms that he is still in power, that definition of "power" could be loose. In Tuesday's report, Kim was walking side by side with some of the men who would have most likely deposed him, chiefly Hwang Pyong-so, a central leadership member of the party and vice director of the Organization and Guidance Department. In other words, if Kim is indeed merely a figurehead, it's men like Hwang who actually run things. Could his presence in the recent photo op suggest that the regime is working overtime to maintain appearances of a dynasty intact? The hereditary Kim dynasty has ruled North Korea since 1949 and a change-up in the regime would signify instability, which would taint its carefully controlled image.
So Just Where Was He Anyway?
In an attempt to hush the world's speculation, North Korea's official DPRK News Service offered an explanation on Monday. Apparently, Kim has been away training in martial arts in case he needs to single-handedly take on "Japanese aggression." Oh, and he's been meditating atop Mount Paektu in between roundhouse kicks. Despite its source, this might just be the craziest theory we've heard yet.
Images: Getty Images (2)