NoKo leader Kim a no-show at major event
North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un hasn't been seen for 35 days and speculation of his fate and the fate of his regime is now being fueled by his failure to attend an important party function.
North Korea's mysterious leader Kim Jong-un has not been seen in public for 35 days and was not on a list of dignitaries at a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers' Party on Friday, sparking speculation that the head of one of the world's most secretive countries is ailing or has been removed in a secret coup.
An official state media dispatch listed senior government, military and party officials who paid their respects at an event marking the party's 69th anniversary, but not Kim. It said a flower basket with Kim's name on it was placed before statues of his father and grandfather, both of whom also ruled North Korea.
There has been rampant speculation that the leader is ill or is no longer in power. Unidentified sources tell South Korean reporters it may be gout, diabetes, or high blood pressure. A source Friday told Sky News that Kim suffered a pulled tendon during a military drill. There has been no confirmation.
State media earlier said that the might of the party "is growing stronger under the seasoned guidance of Marshal Kim Jong Un."
While his absence is not in itself all that important or unusual — such anniversaries are generally given more weight when they are landmark years, though he attended the celebrations in the last two years.
Kim, who was last seen in public attending a concert on Sept. 3., had been seen earlier walking with a limp.
During a surprise visit to South Korea last week to attend the closing ceremonies of the Asian Games in Incheon, three senior North Korean leaders assured their South Korean counterparts that Kim was healthy, but that has done little to calm the rumors abroad that he was unwell.
Paul French wrote in a Reuters' opinion, "to add to the current coup rumors, Hwang Pyong So, recently appointed director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People's Army (the top political position in the powerful DPRK military), appeared in Incheon in South Korea sparking more speculation that Kim was gone and a coup had occurred."
U.S. and South Korean officials told The New York Times that there is no immediate evidence that there has been a coup.
What impresses me is that there have been no leaks from the North Korean government to give us an inkling of what has happened to Dear Leader. No doubt information is compartmentalized to a degree not seen in the west. But you might expect if there was a coup one faction or another getting the word out.
That's why the "dead or sick" explanation is probably closer to the truth, although it's possible that if there has been a change at the top that they would keep Kim around as a figurehead, given his royal lineage. The Kim family legitimizes the regime and not having a family member at the top would bring the leadership into uncharted waters.