A photo released by tightly controlled North Korean state media reportedly showing the first public appearance of Kim Jong Un in 20 days has raised some questions.
The North's official Korean Central News Agency reported Mr Kim made an appearance at a fertiliser factory near Pyongyang celebrating its completion on Friday (local time), but news agency AFP reported the appearance could not be verified.
In one of the several photos released, the North Korean leader can be seen sitting under a banner with the date of May 1, 2020 directly above his head.
Here’s another state media photo claiming to show North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the fertilizer factory on Friday. He is conveniently framed below a banner with the date May 1. Let’s see if they release video. pic.twitter.com/xmvqd7UCFi— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) May 1, 2020
It’s this photo that sparked a tweet from CNN Asia Correspondent Will Ripley who suggested Mr Kim was “conveniently framed” below the date.
“Here’s another state media photo claiming to show North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the fertiliser factory on Friday,” Ripley wrote on Twitter.
“He is conveniently framed below a banner with the date May 1. Let’s see if they release video.”
Other Twitter users pointed out other strange details in the photo, such as the different hair length of Mr Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong, pixelation around the lettering on the banner and many questioned how often the dictator is seen in front of signs advertising the date.
Ripley also retweeted posts claiming some of the other newly-released images show the same green golf cart in the background Mr Kim used in 2014 to travel in after treatment for his leg.
According to Ripley, “intelligence experts are analysing the photos”.
KCNA said on Saturday (local time) Mr Kim attended the ceremony on Friday in Suncheon with other senior officials, including his sister who many analysts predict would take over if her brother is suddenly unable to rule.
The agency said onlookers "broke into thunderous cheers of 'hurrah!'" when the hermit state leader appeared.
Pictures also showed Mr Kim in his trademark black suit, smiling broadly as he looked around the factory.
He was flanked by senior officials and showed no outward signs of ill health.
As with previous pictures released by the North during the global coronavirus pandemic, Mr Kim was not wearing a mask, unlike the hundreds of workers cheering for him and releasing balloons.
Analysts said Mr Kim could not appear in public wearing a mask as it would make him appear vulnerable to the North Korean people.
The North has insisted it has not seen a single case of coronavirus, although experts say it is unlikely.
Mr Kim's repeated appearances without a mask had led some to speculate he may have caught the virus.
There has been no official reason given for Mr Kim’s lack of public appearances.
– with AFP
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