Speed Reads

Tragic Kingdom

Kim Jong Un an apparent no-show at key North Korean celebration, fueling coup rumors

Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader of opaque North Korea, hasn't been seen in public since Sept. 3. Friday is Party Foundation Day, the 69th anniversary of the ruling Workers' Party, and reports suggest that Kim missed the public celebration for the first time in his three years in power. Kim wasn't listed on the official list of senior officials paying their respects at the tombs of Kim's father and grandfather, his predecessors in power.

North Korea's state-run media reported last month that Kim is suffering "discomfort," and he was previously seen walking with a limp, suggesting gout. But his long absence from public life has led to speculation that he is seriously ill or has been deposed in a coup. South Korea's unification ministry says the rumors are overblown. "It seems that Kim Jong Un's rule is in normal operation," ministry spokesman Lim Byeong-cheol said Friday.

A source with access to the leadership in North Korea and China tells Reuters that Kim "is in total control." Kim "pulled a tendon" while participating in military drills in "late August or early September," and "because he is overweight," the injury got worse as he limped around, the source said, adding that Kim needs about 100 days to recover.