Kim Jong Un Is Back—but Why the Cane?
AP points out Kim Jong Il never appeared in public with one
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2014 7:48 AM CDT
A man watches a TV news program showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un using a cane during his first public appearance.   (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
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(Newser) – Let one line of speculation end and another begin: After not being seen in public for 40 days, Kim Jong Un is back. But he appeared in images released by state media with a cane in hand, leading to a fresh mystery: Why? As far as North Korea's leaders go, the cane is a first, reports the AP. Though Kim Jong Il was seen limping, he never appeared with a walking stick. South Korean analyst Cheong Seong-chang suggests the appearance may have partly been a ploy to win sympathy from the North Korean people by painting himself as a leader who works through pain. As for what that pain could be, Cheong points out that the cane is in Kim's left hand. As such, he could have had surgery on that ankle.

A source told Reuters last week that Kim injured his leg after deciding to take part in military exercises. "They were crawling and running and rolling around, and he pulled a tendon. ... He limped around in the beginning, but the injury worsened." ("Cuban heels" have also been blamed for a possible ankle fracture.) The source placed some blame on Kim's weight; based on the new photos, Cheong estimates Kim has lost about 20 pounds as compared to photos taken of him in May. The other mystery to emerge from the photos, which show Kim providing "field guidance" while touring a new apartment building complex in Pyongyang: when they were taken. Yonhap reports that the visit to the Wisong Scientists Residential District was believed to have been made yesterday.