Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s 32-year-old leader, has been absent from public view for more than 38 days, prompting a flurry of speculation about the political stability of a regime notorious for its opaqueness and secrecy.
Official North Korean media have cited unspecified personal “discomfort” as grounds for Mr Kim’s absence from public view. Poor health is a plausible explanation for Mr Kim’s decision to shun the limelight – a striking departure for a leader who, in marked contrast to his publicity-shy father (the late Kim Jong-il), has appeared to revel in high-profile public appearances.
A more dramatic interpretation is that Mr Kim has been the victim of a political coup and is languishing under house arrest, having been removed from power by members of the North’s political and military gerontocracy alarmed by his penchant for purging his political rivals – most notably the execution of his uncle Jang Song-taek in December 2013 – and his failure to promote lasting economic prosperity.
Yet for all the talk of coups and leadership realignments, the circumstantial evidence suggests that Mr Kim remains in charge.
North Korea remains an enigma to foreign powers, but an oppressive and detrimental regime for the many who live under its rule.
Whatever the status of its leader, pray for leadership that is committed to righteousness and justice and for God’s mercy for the people of North Korea.