The North Korean leader Kim Jong Un vanished several times between January and May of this year, and since then, various speculations about his whereabouts have made pages.
His prolonged absence, which coincided with several important events he was expected to attend, including the commemoration of the birth of the country’s founder and Kim’s grandfather Kim Il-sung, on the main national holiday on April 15, gave rise to rumors that the North Korean leader had suffered a health crisis.
There were reports that he was recovering from heart surgery, had contracted the coronavirus, or was under quarantine despite reports in the North Korean media that there are no cases in the country. Others even said he died.
But according to NK News, Kim’s absences matched up with dates displayed at Thursday’s National Industrial Art Exhibition in Pyongyang, which showed when Kim had been judging the designs.
However, it seems that Kim Jong Un was actually judging designs for wine bottles, cargo ships, and school uniforms, all throughout the year.
Kim has taken at least seven breaks lasting at least two weeks or more in 2021, according to NK News. He also disappeared from public view for long stretches in 2020.
Recommended Read: Nuclear Watchdog Warns: North Korea Restarts Reactor Key
In June, Kim reappeared in public looking substantially thinner than before, following a near-monthlong absence. In May, just before he reappeared, Kim was assessing designs for branding associated with the Wonsan-Kalma beach tourist resort.
Images from the National Industrial Art Exhibition showed that Kim also oversaw designs for various wine bottles, school uniforms, trolleybuses, double-decker buses, and a 12,000-ton cargo ship, according to NK News.
Despite these normal occurrences, the North Korean leader’s weight and health have long been considered risk factors for the North Korean regime, and have fueled speculation over his successor if he died suddenly.
A story by THINK last year said, “The disappearance of Kim Jong Un was scary precisely because it had so many possible internal and possibly external implications. And his reappearance should provide the impetus for a more careful analysis of the implications of a North Korean regime implosion, as well as greater diplomatic efforts to plan a coordinated international response.”