NORTH Korean leader Kim Jong-un has hurt his leg taking part in a military drill, according to a source with access to the secretive nation’s leadership.
The source, who has close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing, said: “He ordered all the generals to take part in drills and he took part too. They were crawling and running and rolling around, and he pulled a tendon.
“He injured his ankle and knee around late August or early September while drilling because he is overweight. He limped around in the beginning but the injury worsened,” the source added.
Mr Kim needs about 100 days to recuperate, said the source, but added: “Kim Jong-un is in total control.”
The claims about Mr Kim and his injured leg emerged following his failure yesterday, to appear at a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party.
The apparent no-show will add to mounting speculation that something is amiss with the authoritarian leader, who has not been seen publicly in more than a month.
An official state media outlet listed senior government, military and party officials who paid their respects at an event marking the party’s 69th anniversary, but not Mr Kim. It said a flower basket with Mr Kim’s name on it was placed before statues of his father and grandfather, both of whom also ruled North Korea.
State media earlier said that the might of the party “is growing stronger under the seasoned guidance of Marshal Kim Jong-un”.
Mr Kim, who is thought to be 31, has not been shown by state media performing his customary public duties since he attended a concert on 3 September. He had been walking with a limp and was more overweight than usual. An official documentary from late last month described him as dealing with “discomfort,” which led to international speculation that he might be ill.
His absence from public view is fuelling speculation over the state of his health and whether he may have been sidelined in a power struggle.
“The longer he remains out of the public eye, the more uncertainty about him, and the status of his regime, will grow,” said Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.
Yesterday South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it believed Mr Kim remained in charge, citing a message conveyed by him via a delegation visiting last weekend, and Pyongyang’s continued public position that Mr Kim leads the country.
“So it appears it is being normally ruled by Kim Jong-un,” a ministry spokesman said.
North Korean officials have denied Mr Kim’s public absence is health-related and a US official following North Korea said this week there were no indications he was seriously ill or in political trouble.
It remains unclear why a leg injury would keep Mr Kim out of the public eye for so long, although this is not the first time he has been missing from view.
In June 2012, six months after coming to power, state media failed to report on or photograph him for 23 days. Mr Kim reappeared the next month when he was reported attending a show at a dolphinarium.
Some North Korea watchers suggested Mr Kim may have been sidelined in a power struggle, a scenario they said was reinforced by the unexpected visit last Saturday of a high-level delegation to the closing ceremony of the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.
Another interpretation of that visit holds that it was meant to convey stability in Pyongyang.