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Kim Jong-un honors father’s birthday with first appearance in three weeks

This footage from North Korea’s state-run media KCNA on Sunday shows leader Kim Jong-un paying tribute to his late father, Kim Jong-il, at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang. (Yonhap)
This footage from North Korea’s state-run media KCNA on Sunday shows leader Kim Jong-un paying tribute to his late father, Kim Jong-il, at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun in Pyongyang. (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un marked the birthday of his late father at a national mausoleum in Pyongyang, in his first public appearance in 22 days amid the coronavirus outbreak, the North’s state media reported Sunday.

Kim paid tribute at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, where the embalmed bodies of his father, former leader Kim Jong-il, and his grandfather, founding leader Kim Il-sung, lie, according to the Korean Central News Agency.

“Kim visited the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun on the occasion of the Day of the Shining Star, the greatest auspicious holiday of the nation, with members of the politburo of the Workers’ Party of Korea,” the KCNA said.

The report did not indicate the time of the visit, but Kim usually makes such visits at midnight on the eve of the anniversary.

The Day of the Shining Star is a two-day national holiday that starts Feb. 16, the late Kim Jong-il’s birthday. Sunday would have been the 78th birthday of the former leader, who died in 2011.

It is the second most important holiday in North Korea, after the Day of the Sun, which marks the birthday of Kim Il-sung in April.

Kim Jong-un was last seen in public at a Lunar New Year’s concert in Pyongyang on Jan. 25. North Korea observers speculate that the hiatus was due to fears about coronavirus disease COVID-19, which has killed over 1,500 and sickened more than 67,000 people across the world.

North Korea has not reported any cases of COVID-19, which was first reported in China, Pyongyang’s neighbor and closest ally. But the North has taken aggressive steps on quarantine and other preventive measures.

State media, however, have hinted that a number of people have been quarantined after showing symptoms.

Kim Jong-un has paid tribute at the mausoleum on the holiday every year since 2013, the year after he came to power.

Around 18 of Kim’s aides were seen accompanying Kim to the mausoleum, with the group’s size scaled down compared with previous years, possibly due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Choe Ryong-hae, president of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly, and Pak Pong-ju, vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission, considered the No. 2 and No. 3 leaders in the North, were part of the group.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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