World News

North Korea resumes "normal" service with Kim reports

Supreme Commander of North Korean People's Army (front) waves as he visits the 2200 military unit to see military training at an undisclosed place in North Korea, in this undated picture released by KCNA November 5, 2008. REUTERS/KCNA

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea is resuming “normal” service with its reports about leader Kim Jong-il after he was absent from public view for about 80 days, a South Korean official said, as it tries to end speculation about Kim’s health.

North Korea’s state KCNA news agency said Kim attended a concert by an ensemble of art troupe, state choir and opera groups singing colorful numbers such as “May the Motherland Prosper” and “Please Receive Our Salute.”

“The current situation is the normal one,” South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Ho-nyeon said on Thursday about the reports about Kim’s activities. “When there weren’t any for about 80 days, that’s when it was abnormal.”

No pictures were released of the undated concert but a number of photographs were released with reports on Wednesday that Kim inspected two military units as the country stepped up a campaign to show that Kim was in good health and fully in charge.

KCNA said Kim was accompanied at the concern by some of the very top officials from the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea and the military in an apparent attempt to show he was firmly in control.

“At the end of the performance he waved back to the cheering performers and audience and congratulated them on their successful presentation,” KCNA said.

At the weekend, the North released photographs that it said showed Kim watching a soccer match.

Last month, it said he was out in public twice, once to see a separate soccer game and to inspect a military unit, but some of the undated pictures released for those outings raised more questions about his health than they answered.

Reports about Kim’s public activities dried up from August 14 to Oct 4. He also failed to show up at a military parade marking a key anniversary on September 9 fuelling speculation that he was gravely ill.

Reporting by Jack Kim; Editing by Nick Macfie and Valerie Lee