Kim Jong il fails to appear at 60th anniversary celebrations

UPDATE 5: Kim misses Choseuk.  From the AP:

North Korea’s ailing leader remained out of sight Monday, missing another key chance — Korea’s Thanksgiving holiday — to make a public appearance that could put to rest mounting speculation about his health.

North Korea’s main newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said Monday Kim urged his people to work hard to reap a bountiful harvest, saying the country “should mobilize all available capability for the autumn harvest.” The remarks were published a day after Chuseok, or Thanksgiving, but the paper did not say when Kim made the remarks. (Associated Press)

UPDATE 4: Putting foreigners aside, the DPRK needs to come up with a pretty good reason to explain KJI’s absense from the celebrations for its own people.  A significant portion of Pyongyang’s population was involved in the performances and Kim’s failure to appear will likely fuel the domestic rumor mill.  Has Rodong Sinmun or any of the DPRK’s local publications given an account of his whereabouts for the home crowd?

(update 4a: the rumor mill seems to have started turning)

UPDATE 3: North Korea’s Kim is fine, his deputy says. “(There is) no problem,” North Korea’s nominal number two leader, Kim Yong-nam, told Japan’s Kyodo news agency in Pyongyang. Senior North Korean diplomat Song Il-ho told Kyodo earlier: “We see such reports as not only worthless, but rather as a conspiracy plot.” (Washington Post)

UPDATE 2: Lankov remains skeptical, and I agree:

“He is going to die sooner or later and eventually one of these reports about his health will be true, but this one is probably much ado about nothing,” said Andrei Lankov, a respected Pyongyang watcher and a professor at South Korea’s Kookmin University. He said the extreme secrecy about the North Korean regime made it unlikely that either the United States or South Korea had received reliable intelligence about Kim’s health. (LA Times)

UPDATE1: The Wall Street Journal reports that “US Officials” say Kim Jong il is believed to have suffered a stroke. 

ORIGINAL POST:  Though I personally don’t want to get caught up in endless speculation, Kim’s failure to appear at the mass rallies celebrating the DPRK’s 60th birthday is a significant signal that he is not in good health.  I saw Kim Jong il in 2005 at the mass games celebrating the 60th anniversary of the “defeat of the Japanese colonialists,” and for him not to appear at this more auspicious celebration is certainly noteworthy.  According to Reuters:

North Korea celebrated its 60th birthday with a triumphal military parade on Tuesday just as the hermit state appears to be backing away from a disarmament deal, but leader Kim Jong-il failed to appear, Kyodo news reported.

South Korea’s largest daily, the Chosun Ilbo, said Kim, 66 and suspected of suffering from chronic illness, collapsed last month, citing a South Korean diplomatic source in Beijing.

Kim’s health is one of the most closely guarded secrets in Asia’s only communist dynasty, but Kim himself, at a summit with South Korea’s president in October 2007, dismissed persistent media speculation that he was ill.

“I make a little move and that gets huge coverage,” Kim said in rare comments. “It seems like they’re fiction writers and not journalists.”

North Korean media last reported a public appearance by Kim about a month ago.

Read the full article here:
North Korea fetes 60th birthday
Reuters
Jon Herskovitz and Jack Kim
9/9/2008

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One Response to “Kim Jong il fails to appear at 60th anniversary celebrations”

  1. […] il has not made a public appearance reported in the North Korean media since August 14, 2008.  Most notably, he failed to preside over the September 9 celebrations marking the 60th anniversary …—unleashing a flood of speculation in the Western media that Kim is in bad health and […]