Kim Jong Il Disappears from North Korean Media

There has been no record in the North Korean media of Kim Jong Il undertaking public activities of any sort since May 20th, the day the joint civilian-military investigation into the sinking of the Cheonan released its findings.

Immediately after returning from his visit to China on May 7th, Kim watched a North Korean opera, “Sanullim” (Echo of a Mountain), a fact which was reported by Chosun Central News Agency (KCNA) on the 9th.

Thereafter, Kim made visits to several sites in Yangkang, South and North Hamkyung Provinces. He visited the construction of the Mt. Baekdu Military-first Youth Power Plant, released on May 16th by KCNA; a collective potato farm in Baekam, released on May 17; and then visited Samjiyeon, Hyesan and Daehongdan before inspecting Gwanmobong Machine Factory and the construction of Eorang Stream Power Plant, culminating with a visit to Chongjin Rabbit Livestock Breeding Farm on May 20th.

On the 21st, the day after the announcement of the Cheonan results, the KCNA reported that Kim inspected Rongsung Heavy Machine Complex and Hamheung Chemical Industry University. These were his last recorded activities.

Given that the North Korean media conventionally reports Kim’s movements a few days after they take place, he seems to have taken a week-long break before making a clutch of onsite visits from the 15th to the 20th.

Experts suggest that this post-Cheonan findings silence is highly unusual; noting that after he suffered a stroke the media exaggerated Kim’s activities and promoted his healthy condition for purposes of domestic solidarity.

While North Korea is taking an aggressive stance and threatening the South via the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland and the National Defense Commission, it is interesting that Kim himself has disappeared beneath a media blackout.