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2020-05-02

The Art of Re-emergence Leader Kim of North Korea appears after a long gap

Image:-North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends the completion of a fertiliser plant

When North Korea broke a three-week silence on the public activity of leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday, it offered no clue where he has been about his health and whereabouts during a period of intense global speculation, or why he has been hidden from the public for so long.

Instead, state media simply showed him surrounded by aids and showed confidence in a gleaming fertilizer factory that is believed to be part of a secret nuclear-weapons program by outside experts.

While much remains a mystery about Kim's condition, the abrupt re-emergence of the relaxed and smiling leader has been a clear choreography of the secret government's key messages: Kim is the supreme leader in full control of a drive to improve the food security and economy of the poor country, in the midst of tough international sanctions and the threat of the new coronavirus.

WORLD NEWS

The official Rodong Sinmun newspaper on Saturday dedicated three of its six pages to vindicating Kim's leadership, crediting him for what he called prosperity and self-reliance.

The accuracy of official accounts or the authenticity of pictures from the event could not be verified by Reuters.

The sprawling complex is the result of Kim's vision of building a modern factory to support agricultural production and advance the automation of its chemical industry, said Pak Pong Ju, a party elder and loyal assistant to Kim, at the ribbon cutting where Kim reappeared.

North Korea is subject to sanctions for its nuclear weapons and missile programs, leaving the country with chronic food shortages, aggravated by bad weather and mismanagement.

Kim's appearance at the Sunchon fertilizer plant, reported by official media on Friday, was an example of "field guidance" – a key part of Kim's public figure, where he presides over an event at a major industrial or social project, or at other times at military drills involving strategic weapons like ballistic missiles or tactical warfare.

His second visit to the site 50 km (30 miles) north of the capital Pyongyang this year included a large audience of Army officials, the ruling Workers' Party and the local community. In an apparent precaution against the coronavirus many wore face masks.

"Agricultural production is a top priority, which has a direct impact on people's lives," said Koh Yu-hwan, president of the South Korean government think-tank Korea Institute for National Unification.

Koh said the sudden return of Kim was "a strategy to be at the center of world news without having recourse to nuclear or missile testing."

ENTOURAGE

Kim's entourage's makeup featured familiar faces at such events, including two at the forefront of the North's years-long drive to improve economic conditions: former Prime Minister Pak Pong Ju, who is Kim's deputy on the State Affairs Commission, and Pak's successor as Prime Minister, Kim Jae Ryong.

The pair had accompanied Kim on his last important field guidance, the General Hospital's March groundbreaking in Pyongyang.

His sister, Kim Yo Jong, a vice director of the Central Committee of the party and inofficially the chief of staff of her brother, was to Kim Jong Un's immediate right on the podium.