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No One's Seen Kim Jong Un in a Week

N. Korean leader seemingly didn't appear at tribute to grandfather, triggering buzz about his health
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 18, 2020 6:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Kim Jong Un doesn't typically miss showing off whenever his famous relatives are honored during North Korean national holidays. That's why there are now whispers as to why he didn't show (or wasn't shown by state media) in a Wednesday birthday tribute to his grandfather, Kim Il Sung, with speculation now circulating the North Korean leader might be ill. Only senior officials were said to have been part of the delegation that came for "the Day of the Sun" to view the embalmed body of Kim Il Sung at Pyongyang's Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, per Reuters. There was also no state media report about the country's alleged cruise missile tests on Tuesday, which there normally would be, with Kim in attendance. The last time the 36-year-old was seen in public was last Saturday, when he attended a Workers' Party politburo meeting.

Those who've watched his behavior say it would be unlike him to skip the birthday tribute: Yonhap notes Kim hasn't skipped the holiday visit to the mausoleum since he took power in 2011, per Fox News. "He has been going there on the birthdays of his grandfather and father to flaunt his royalty to them and sacred bloodline," a senior fellow at South Korea's Sejong Institute tells Reuters. While some wonder if he's sick or has another health issue, some observers tell Fox he may be trying to distance himself from his relatives to establish his own legacy. Still others suggest he may have paid tribute beforehand to shelter himself from coronavirus exposure. "This is a leader whose ... trademark [is] hugging his people a lot," an international relations professor at Seoul's Yonsei University tells CNN. "I think we have to include the possibility that this is related to their process to make sure he stays safe." (Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)

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