North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s absence from the public eye can be explained by a leg injury, not a loss of control over the government, a source close to the 31-year-old leader told Reuters on Thursday. Kim allegedly injured his ankle and knee while inspecting military drills.
“He ordered all the generals to take part in drills and he took part too,” the source said. “They were crawling and running and rolling around, and he pulled a tendon. He injured his ankle and knee around late August or early September while drilling because he is overweight. He limped around in the beginning but the injury worsened.”
Kim’s whereabouts haven’t been chronicled by North Korean state media since Sept. 3, when he attended a concert with his wife. His apparent disappearance fueled rumors in recent weeks that he was medically incapacitated, or that he had lost control of North Korea in a military coup.
The source, who has close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing, claims that Kim remains in power and is merely resting his injured leg, which will require 100 days to heal. “Kim Jong Un is in total control,” said the source, whose information couldn't be confirmed.
North Korea’s Workers’ Party will celebrate the 69th anniversary of its founding on Friday. For the past two years, Kim commemorated the event with an appearance at the Pyongyang mausoleum that houses the remains of his grandfather and father. Kim’s failure to make a similar appearance on Friday would fuel speculation that he's suffering in some way.
Kim was seen walking with a limp ahead of a meeting with officials in July, and a prerecorded documentary aired by North Korean state media last week acknowledged that he was experiencing “discomfort.” But a senior North Korean official said that there was “no problem at all” with Kim’s health, a South Korean minister told the media on Sunday.