North Korea Leadership Watch

Research and Analysis on the DPRK Leadership

Where is Kim Jong Un?

Kim Jong Un (C) (Photo: KCNA screen grab)

DPRK state media reported on 25 June (Monday) that Kim Jong Un (Kim Cho’ng-u’n) authorized a gifts presentation of cars, buses and “various other vehicles.”  According to KCNA, “the gift-conveying ceremony took place on Monday.”   However, Kim Jong Un’s last reported public appearance was his attendance of a commemorative photo session with participants of the 66th anniversary conference of the Korean Children’s Union, reported by DPRK state media on 7 June.   20 days later, no visits or inspections by KJU have been reported.  Less than a week after that appearance, a treatise that he authored to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Kim Il Sung’s birth was publicized and disseminated.

This exceeds a ten-day gap between appearances in May 2012; on 9 May KJU visited Mangyo’ngdae Fun Fair but was not reported to have conducted any public activity until 19 May when he attended a performance by two Korean People’s Army [KPA] art propaganda squads.  Incidentally, between 8 May and 21 May a group of Chinese fishermen were detained in the DPRK.  Prior to the Korean Children’s Union conference he was reported to have inspected the Ch’angjon Street area in downtown Pyongyang (30 May), visited the Pyongyang Central Zoo (27 May) and inspected construction sites in Pyongyang (25 May).  Based on the locations of these visits, Kim Jong Un had not ventured far from the center of Pyongyang, and the protective layer of security forces (divisions) of the Guard Command’s #1 Department (a.k.a., the First Bureau; Security Bureau).

Kim Jong Il made a number of visits and appearances that went unreported, or were publicized much later.  Several documentary films on KJU’s activities show him conducting unreported military or construction inspections, but most of those occurred before his public introduction in September 2010.  And yet one would think, given joint US-ROK military exercises under way in the West (Yellow) Sea timed for the 62nd anniversary of the beginning of the Korean (Fatherland Liberation) War,  KJU would want to wave the banner.  This week also marks the six months since he formally assumed the position of supreme leader, as well as his mother’s birthday.  Has Kim Jong Un decamped for one of the Kims’ special pavilions to relax?   Has the horrid reality of sitting in the party center resorted him to issuing instructions from bed?  Is he enduring an excruciating policymaking process with a coterie of sangmujo?  Questions about Kim Jong Un’s activities and whereabouts might also evoke queries about his so-called guardians.  Then again, Kim Kyong Hui and Jang Song Taek are known to come and go as they please.

A February 2012 DigitalGlobe image shows the Sangsong-ri residential high-rise compound, located approximately 12 miles (19 km) east of Hamhung, South Hamgyong Province. (Photo: DigitalGlobe)

An April 2012 DigitalGlobe shows Kim Jong Il’s residential compound near Mt. Paektu in Yanggang Province. If Kim Jong Un is holding private meetings with officials of Asian foreign governments, this complex’s location on the DPRK-PRC border and close proximity to Samjiyon Airport make it the ideal setting. (Photo: DigitalGlobe)

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