North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made his first public appearance in 20 days, North Korean state media reported early on Saturday, amid rumours about his health.
The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that Kim attended a ceremony marking the completion of a fertiliser factory in Suncheon, near the capital of Pyongyang, with other senior officials, including his sister, Kim Yo Jong.
The report could not be independently verified and photos from the ceremony were not immediately released.
Speculation about the Korean leader’s health swirled after he missed the April 15 birthday celebration for his late grandfather Kim Il Sung, the country’s most important holiday, for the first time since he took power in 2011.
Without publishing images, state media reported that Kim Jong Un was carrying out routine activities outside public view, such as sending greetings to the leaders of Syria, Cuba and South Africa and expressing gratitude to workers building tourist facilities in the coastal town of Wonsan, where some speculated he was staying.
South Korea’s government, which has a mixed record of tracking Pyongyang’s ruling elite, repeatedly downplayed speculation that Kim, believed to be 36, was in poor health following surgery.
The office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in said it detected no unusual signs in North Korea or any emergency reaction by the country’s ruling party, military and cabinet. It said it believed Kim was still managing state affairs but staying at an unspecified location outside Pyongyang.
It was not immediately clear what caused Kim’s absence in past weeks. In 2014, Kim vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks and then reappeared with a cane. South Korea’s spy agency said he had a cyst removed from his ankle.
Al Jazeera and news agencies