KCNA reports Kim Jong il appearance

According to KCNA, Kim Jong il made his first public appearance this weekend since going “off-line” August 14, 2008.  Kim’s failure to preside over the September 9 celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of DPRK’s founding unleashed a flood of speculation in the Western media that Kim is in bad health—prompting a rare public denial from North Korean government officials.

The North Korean people, however, have been kept in the dark about Kim’s absense from the 60th anniversary festivities.  The average North Korean knows almost nothing about Kim Jong il or his family, and most are probably too busy trying to make ends meet to pay much attenention to his health.  In Pyongyang, though, his absesnce at the celebrations was very visible.  No doubt the Pyongyang rumor mill went into effect shortly after the second parade participant set foot in Kim il Sung Square.  

So this weekend, KCNA issued the following report—no doubt intended to assure the DPRK citizenry that their leader is just fine:

Kim Jong Il Enjoys Student Football Match
Pyongyang, October 4 (KCNA) — General Secretary Kim Jong Il enjoyed a student football match on the occasion of the 62nd anniversary of Kim Il Sung University, the highest institution of Juche-based education and science.

There was the football match between teams of Kim Il Sung University and Pyongyang University of Railways that day, at which the former beat the latter 4-1.

After watching the match, Kim Jong Il congratulated the players on their good results, saying that the revolutionary and militant students in our country are good at art and sporting activities while devoting all their wisdom and enthusiasm to the study of science for the country and the people.

He noted with great satisfaction that the above-said universities have produced a large number of able cadres and technical personnel for the nation who play a leading role in the revolution and construction, thus positively contributing to the cause of building a great prosperous and powerful nation, and highly praised the achievements made by them over the past years.

It is of weighty significance in accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche and building a rich and powerful nation to train the students who will shoulder the destiny of the country in the future to be able talents with ample knowledge and good physique, he said, advancing highly important tasks that should be regarded as guidelines in developing the intellectual and ideological education and sports at universities.

Accompanying him were First Vice Department Director Ri Jae Il and other leading officials of the C.C., the Workers’ Party of Korea and officials concerned.

Skepticism in the western media appeared moments after this report hit the internet (here and here). 

This morning, I did a quick search of KCNA reports (using the STALIN search engine) and it turns out that KCNA has never reported (in English) that Kim Jong il has attended a football match (though records only go back to 1996).  If the KCNA report is true, this would be the first football match Kim has attended in over 12 years!

The Daily NK offers a summery of Kim’s activities this year right up until he went dormant:

According to the analysis of North Korean media released on September 17th by the South Korean Ministry of Unification, Kim Jong Il had been involved in 75 public appearances this year, up until August 14th.

He participated in 42 military related activities, 5 diplomatic affairs and various other events. He viewed at least one or two artistic performances, but not once did he observe a sports game.

From August 1st to 14th, when the National Intelligence Service made public the claim that Kim Jong Il had had a stroke, he had appeared publicly 13 times. 11 were military inspections, one time was an economic inspection and one was an artistic performance.

Since Kim Il Sung’s death, this has been the third-longest term of sequestered life, around 50 days. Each time, he finally released news of his wellbeing through the press.

The longest one was after his father’s death, on September 8th, 1994; he disappeared from the North Korean media for 87 days. At the time, North Korean media reported that he was spending 100 days mourning for his father.

Second, at the time, around January 10, 2003, when North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and March 20, when the Iraq war broke out, Kim Jong Il was not seen for a total of 49 days. The withdrawal from the NPT triggered the start of a crisis; after participating in a banquet for a Russian delegation on February 12, Kim disappeared from the public sphere. After 49 days, a report was released that Kim had taken part in an onsite inspection at Kim Hyong Jik College, a military medical college.

Read other stories here:
North Korea Says Kim Jong Il May Be `Tired,’ Yonhap Reports
Heejin Koo

Playing the Game of Spot North Korea’s Kim Jong Il
Rosett Report
Claudia Rosett

Doubts Arise Over N. Korean Leader’s Appearance
Donga Ilbo

North Korea Reports First Kim Jong Il Appearance
Heejin Koo

One for Sports among Kim Jong Il’s Public Activities
Daily NK
Yang Jung A


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