Speculation over the unexplained absence of Kim Jong Un is likely to increase Friday if the North Korean leader fails to show up at one of the nation's most important anniversaries. Oct. 10 will mark the 69th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, an event that Kim marked in the past by visiting the Pyongyang mausoleum where rest the bodies of his father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung.
The re-emergence of 31-year-old Kim Jong Un would help put an end to an onslaught of speculation ranging from illness to a palace coup. North Korean state media habitually chronicle Kim’s every move and appearance in detail, but nothing has been published since the last time he was seen in public on Sept. 3, when he attended a concert with his wife Ri Sol Ju.
A no-show on Friday would be the latest in a series of missed events. Kim has already missed several other high-profile occasions, like the closing ceremony of the Asian Games in Seoul and Pyongyang’s rubber-stamp National Assembly meeting.
“Should he fail to appear, it will fuel speculation that the young North Korean leader has fallen on hard times of one kind or another,” Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the U.S.- Korea Institute at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told Reuters. “The longer he remains out of the public eye, the more uncertainty about him, and the status of his regime, will grow.”
Though this is the longest time Kim Jong Un has been out of the public eye, it isn’t unprecedented. Since coming to power in December 2011, Kim has spent extended amounts of time in seclusion before resurfacing without explanation. According to a tally by the BBC, in March 2012 Kim didn’t make any public appearances for 21 days, and went missing again in June of the same year for 24 days. Last January was the most recent instance when he was absent from media for an extended period, spending 18 days out of the limelight.