NK Leader Made More Visits to Sites This Year Than 2006

Korea Times
Yoon Won-sup

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il made 86 public appearances this year as of Dec. 27, down from 99 during the same period last year, according to a survey of various North Korean media.

His public appearances have decreased since 2005 when he made 123 appearances.

In the first half of the year, Kim appeared in public 29 times, and later he made 57 appearances, mainly on military bases and business sites.

Out of the 86, 41 were at military bases, followed by 19 at industry or business sites, and 14 at performing centers.

One striking feature is that he reduced his visits to military facilities, which accounted for 60-70 percent of his appearances in the past. Last year, he visited military bases 66 times.

The decreased visits to the military is probably related to eased tension on the Korean Peninsula with progress at the six-party talks, aimed at ending North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

Last year, the North seriously clashed with the United States over North Korea’s nuclear weapons test and frozen financial assets by the United States.

This year Kim paid more visits to economic sites such as power stations and industry complexes.

North Korean media outlets massively reported Kim’s praise for power station builders during his visit to the station in Taecheon in North Pyeongan Province in January. “Taecheon spirit,” a term Kim coined, became a media phrase word used in relation to the economy.

The gradual decrease in the public appearance is reportedly due to Kim’s health.

There was no public appearance for a month from early May to early June, which spawned speculation that he underwent heart surgery.

However, the National Intelligence Service denied the speculation and said Kim had no problems with his health.

Particularly when meeting with President Roh Moo-hyun in early October, Kim made clear that he is healthy, saying jokingly, “I am not a patient. I don’t have diabetes or heart problems.”

But his appearances during the summit obviously showed he had aged considerably compared with how he looked at the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000.


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