North Korean state media claimed Friday that leader Kim Jong Un has made his first public appearance since rumors began swirling that he was ill, incapacitated or even dead.
North Korea’s report, which is controlled by the government, said that Kim has appeared publicly at a fertilizer plant, according to translations by The Associated Press.
The state news agency, KCNA, later released photos showing Kim cutting a ribbon and showing a factory in the background.
Kim’s status has been in question for weeks after he failed to appear at a celebration marking the most important day on North Korea’s calendar on April 15. Since then, the U.S. has been monitoring his health, and several American officials told media outlets that the U.S. had intelligence indicating Kim had been hospitalized. However, reports about the severity of his condition varied.
South Korean officials contradicted American media reports about Kim’s health, saying their intelligence about the notoriously secretive dictator revealed he was merely touring provincial areas.
Until now, North Korea has offered little to verify his condition. The isolated nation has a tight grip on any information that comes in or out of the country, especially regarding that of their rulers. In 2011, the country managed to conceal then-leader Kim Jong Il’s death for two days, and officials are suspected of rewriting some of the details about his death to make it seem nobler than it was.