North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has not been seen in public for more than three weeks, leading to growing speculation over his health.
State media on Friday said Kim was experiencing “discomfort,” but gave no further details.
State television coverage of Kim in July had shown the young leader walking with a pronounced limp, and speculation over the reason for his latest no-show has ranged from an attack of gout to an injury he may have picked up while providing “guidance” to North Korean athletes competing in the ongoing Asian Games.
The North’s Supreme People’s Assembly, or parliament, only meets once or twice a year to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions made by the ruling party.
It has little real power and there is no onus on Kim to attend when it is convened, although Friday’s session was the first he has missed since coming to power three year ago.
Kim, who is believed to be 30 or 31, was last seen attending a musical concert in Pyongyang with his wife, Ri Sol-Ju, on September 3.
It is by no means unprecedented for a North Korean leader to drop out of the public eye for a while, but it is more noticeable with Kim who has maintained a particularly pervasive media presence since assuming power on the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011.
Much has been made of the state TV footage that showed him limping at a national memorial meeting in July to mark the 20th anniversary of the death of his grandfather and North Korea’s founder Kim Il-Sung.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency on Friday quoted an unidentified source saying Kim was suffering from gout, obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Another source told the agency that a North Korean medical team had visited Germany and Switzerland for consultations on Kim’s health issues.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.
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