Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded Kim Jong Un, once presumed dead, a commemorative World War II medal for his role in maintaining the memory of USSR troops martyred in North Korea, Russia’s Embassy in Pyongyang said Tuesday.
The event took place at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, where Kim Jong Un reshuffled North Korea’s highest decision-making body last month.
The presumed dead – North Korean leader – Kim Jong Un recently made his public appearance after it was widely speculated that he was either dead or seriously unwell.
Russia’s ambassador handed the commemorative medal dubbed “75 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945” to Kim’s foreign minister, according to a statement and photographs published on the embassy’s Facebook page.
Kim Jong Un was bestowed with the award “for his great personal contribution to the commemoration of the dead and buried USSR citizens in North Korea and expressing concern about the security of the Soviet soldiers’ graves and memorial sites.” TASS news agency reports that 1,375 Soviet soldiers are buried in North Korea.
Russian Ambassador Alexander Matsegora and North Korean foreign minister Ri Son Gwon held a brief sit-down following the ceremony. “They endorsed their plan to maintain existing efforts to consistently implement the agreements… aimed at further promoting and strengthening multifaceted Russian-Korean cooperation,” the embassy said.
What triggered the speculation behind Kim’s health was his non-appearance at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, a place he visits every year on April 15 to mark the birthday of his grandfather, the founder of the dynastic regime. No reporting by state media on the recent missile test launches featuring Kim Jong-un further fueled speculations.
These rumours gained traction when Daily NK, a South Korea-based online publication, and CNN, relying on anonymous sources inside the country, reported that the supreme leader’s health was in ‘grave danger’ following a heart surgery on April 12.
Kim Jong Un – Hale and Hearty
A former senior North Korean diplomat has apologised after saying Kim Jong Un was apparently so unwell he could not stand, days before he appeared on state media smoking and walking promptly at an event.
High-profile defectors from the country speculated that Kim was suffering from a grave illness or could even be dead. North Korean media on Saturday broadcast video of Kim during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the inauguration of a fertiliser plant.
Sky News Australia claimed that Kim could have intentionally pretended to be dead by going missing for 20 days, to evaluate his inner circle and separate friends from foes.