Asia Pacific

North Korea's Kim continuing to stay away from capital amid pandemic, sources say

KYODO

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to still be staying in the country’s eastern port city of Wonsan, having not returned to Pyongyang after attending a factory opening on May Day, diplomatic sources have said.

While some South Korean media have reported that Kim has conducted military inspection activities during his time in the capital of Kangwon Province, the precise reason for his continued presence in the seaside resort remains unknown.

Kim has not appeared in state-run media since May 2, when the official Korean Central News Agency released photos showing him at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a newly opened fertilizer factory in Sunchon, near Pyongyang, the previous day.

In April as well he stayed for an extended period in Wonsan, where his villa is situated. Dismissing rumors that he was in bad health, the South Korean government claimed at the time that Kim may have left Pyongyang to take preventive steps against the new coronavirus.

In its Friday’s edition, South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo newspaper, citing informed sources, said Kim has visited military sites while in Wonsan, adding he has exhibited no outward signs of ill health despite his extended absence from the public eye.

Pyongyang maintains that the country has no cases of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.

But North Korea is believed to be vulnerable to infectious diseases due in part to chronic shortages of food and medical supplies triggered by economic sanctions aimed at thwarting Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions.

In 2014, Kim disappeared from public view for about 40 days, leading North Korea watchers to speculate that he was suffering health problems.

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