MOSCOW, November 5 (RIA Novosti) — Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader whose health has been subject to intense scrutiny and debate over the last months, has appeared, sans walking cane, at a meeting of the country’s top military officials, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports.
Kim convened a two-day military guidance rally of the Korean People’s Army in Pyongyang on Monday and Tuesday this week. North Korean media released reports from the event, together with photos of Kim walking freely without the aid of a cane, which he had been seen using last month, fueling rumors about his health.
Yoo Ho Yeol, Professor of North Korea Studies at Korea University in Sejong, told Bloomberg that Kim’s appearance, together with the photos, “dispels the lingering sense of uncertainty that was associated with the cane."
The military guidance rally held this week was the first such event since 2006, when it was chaired by Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il. It is only the third such rally of its kind, the first occurring in October 1953, shortly after the end of the Korean War. The event had then been chaired by Kim’s grandfather, Kim Il-sung.
Kim’s speech before the military leaders emphasized improved training and readiness to beat “back any formidable enemy at one blow.” Kim also called on the military to make efforts to improve soldiers’ conditions in the field, along with their knowledge of the country’s ideology, Juche, The Korea Times reported.
During the event, Kim also presented awards to five commanders and battalion political officers for service deserving merit, the source also said.
Kim was accompanied by Vice Minister of the Central Committee of the Korean Workers’ Party Hwang Pyong-so, who is widely seen as the country’s second in command. Hwang had made a surprise goodwill visit to South Korea last month.
Prior to his return last month, when Kim was pictured walking with a cane, the leader had been absent for over six weeks, leading to rumors that he was seriously ill, and that he may have even been overthrown in a coup.
Yonhap says that South Korean intelligence officials have determined that Kim underwent ankle surgery in October to remove a cyst.