BEIJING/SEOUL (TIP): North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in firm control of his government but has hurt his leg, a source with access to the secretive North’s leadership said on October 9, playing down speculation over the 31-year-old’s health and grip on power. North Korea’s state media, which usually chronicles Kim’s whereabouts in great detail, has not made any mention of his activities since he attended a concert with his wife on Sept. 3. The source said that Kim hurt his leg while inspecting military exercises. “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,” the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity. “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 said. Kim, who has rapidly gained weight since coming to power after his father died of a heart attack in 2011, had been seen walking with a limp since an event with key officials in July, which would imply he may have aggravated an earlier injury. Kim needs about 100 days to recuperate, said the source, whose information could not be independently verified. “Kim Jong Un is in total control,” said the source, who has close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing. Friday is the 69th anniversary of the founding of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, an event Kim has marked in the past two years with a post-midnight visit to the Pyongyang mausoleum where the bodies of his father and grandfather are interred. If Kim does not turn up, it could fuel speculation over the state of his health and whether he may have been sidelined in a power struggle, experts said. “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 U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. Not Kim’s first absence North Korean officials have denied that Kim’s public absence since early September is health-related and a U.S. 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 Kim out of the public eye for so long, although this is not the first time he has been missing from public view. In June 2012, six months after coming to power, state media failed to report on or photograph him for 23 days. He re-surfaced the next month at a dolphinarium. Speculation that Kim’s unusually long absence from public view may be due to ill health was fuelled by a North Korean TV report late last month that said he was suffering from “discomfort”. Some Pyongyang watchers also suggest that Kim may have been sidelined in a power struggle, a scenario they say was reinforced by the unexpected visit on 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.


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