Where in the world is Kim Jong Un?

Is Kim Jong Un incapacitated or dead from Coronavirus? The question has to be asked after the North Korean dictator failed to appear – as he and his predecessor have always done – at the most important holiday commemoration in the North Korean calendar, one honoring his grandfather, the founder of the North Korean state. Lauren Vella reports for The Hill:

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was absent from a national celebration dedicated to the nation’s founder and Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il Sung, on Friday, raising questions about the state of his health. 

According to reports from KCNA, the country’s state-run media, North Korean leaders paid tribute to Kim Il Sung’s preserved body at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun but did not mention Kim Jong Un’s presence, according to Reuters

Kim was also not present in official photos of the celebration. (snip)

This was the first time in decades that the country's leader has not made an appearance during the national holiday, referred to in North Korea as the “Day of the Sun.” It is difficult to glean what Kim’s absence could mean for the leader and the country

File photo via the President of Russia

Hyonhee Shin adds at Reuters:

Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at South Korea’s Sejong Institute, said it was the first time in decades Kim’s visit to the palace on that holiday was not reported state media since he took power in late December.

“He has been going there on the birthdays of his grandfather and father to flaunt his royalty to them and sacred bloodline,” Cheong said.

“It is possible that there was a problem with his health or safety even if temporary, though it is difficult to assess how the situation might be.”

Since his death, Kim Il Sung has been elevated to near-divine status, and it is only through his descent from the demi-god that Kim Jong Un gained and holds onto power. Skipping the most prominent ceremony honoring his grandfather is not something lightly done.

Kim Jong Un is very obese, making him at risk for Coronavirus. There have been previous reports of his ill health related to obesity, but there is no solid information on that point. North Korea denies that it is affected by coronavirus, but few outsiders accept that as true. The overall poor state of health and healthcare, as well as the poverty and crowded living quarters of most of the population make it an ideal breeding ground.

With North Korea’s principal patron, China, now widely blamed or the pandemic, having its leader suffer from it would be awkward.

President Trump prominently offered moral support as well as unspecified medical help when his friend Boris Johnson successfully coped with Coronavirus. I have to wonder if there might be some private help – shipment of drugs, ventilators, or other medical assistance – sent from the US to Pyongyang IF KJU needs help. Saving his life could alter the course of US-North Korea relations.

This is all speculation, of course. North Korea’s lack of transparency makes it impossible to know, but we can say with confidence that something important prevented KJI from honoring his grandfather.

Hat tip: Michael Curtis

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