May 1 (UPI) — Rumors of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s death may have come to an end Friday after local media reported his first public appearance in 20 days.
State-run media outlet KCNA reported that Kim cut the ribbon at the opening of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory. The news report didn’t run any photos of the leader at the facility.
According to translations by BBC and Bloomberg, KCNA said the workers at the factory “broke into thunderous cheers of hurrah” when Kim appeared, but the report didn’t mention his recent lack of appearances. His last reported public appearance was April 12, leading experts to speculate that Kim might be gravely ill or dead.
North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho told South Korean media Friday that he was 99 percent sure Kim was dead after cardiovascular surgery.
“I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend,” Ji said, according to a report by Yonhap News Agency. “It is not 100 percent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 percent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue.”
KCNA said a number of North Korean officials attended the factory opening, including Premier Kim Jae Ryong, former Premier Pak Pong Ju and Kim’s sister, Jim Yo Jong, whom South Korean experts said could have taken over in the event of her brother’s death.
When asked about Kim’s reported reappearance, President Donald Trump told reporters, “I’d rather not comment on it yet.”