North Korean leader Kim Jong-il conducted the largest number of public activities last year since he inherited the communist country from his father in 1994, according to figures aggregated by the South Korean government.
The 68-year-old appeared in North Korea’s official media a total of 161 times, the Unification Ministry said Tuesday in a release that suggested Kim was trying to tamp down outside speculation over his health. About one-fifth of his activities last year were joined by his third son and heir-apparent Kim Jong-un, the ministry said.
Kim Jong-il reportedly suffered a stroke in 2008, a year during which he showed up only 97 times. Kim appeared in official media 159 times in 2009, increasing his visits to factories and other economy-related facilities. Last year, he made 63 visits to economic sites and 38 to military ones, the ministry said.
“He seems to be trying to unite the regime by showing both internally and externally that he remains healthy and that he is focused on enhancing the living standards of people,” a ministry official said, asking not to be named.
North Korea is trying to revive its economy ahead of 2012, which marks the centennial of the birth of Kim Il-sung, who founded the country and later passed his power to Kim Jong-il upon his death.
Outside analysts say the heavy focus on the economy is aimed at creating a setting favorable for another hereditary power succession, this time, to Kim Jong-un, believed to be about 28.
North Korea’s media have yet to report on Kim Jong-il’s first public activity this year.