Total blackout in North on news of Jong-nam’s death

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Total blackout in North on news of Jong-nam’s death


The Rodong Sinmun Thursday carried a photo of grim-faced Kim Jong-un at a gathering of officials at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Wednesday. [YONHAP]

North Korea’s media Thursday covered the visit of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the Kumsusan Palace of Sun, where the body of his father Kim Jong-il is laid to rest, commemorating the former leader’s 75th birthday.

But it made no mention of this week’s assassination of Kim Jong-il’s oldest son Kim Jong-nam in Malaysia, which many believe was ordered by Kim Jong-un himself.

The North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency carried a photo of Kim, accompanied by his wife Ri Sol-ju and North Korean party and military officials, bowing before statues of his father and grandfather Kim Il Sung, the nation’s founder. Other officials on the visit at midnight on Wednesday included Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, director of the Propaganda and Agitation Department Kim Ki-nam and vice chairman of the Workers’ Party central committee Choe Tae-bok.

The state-run Rodong Sinmun carried an editorial entitled “Let’s proudly build up a strong socialist state under the guidance of comrade Kim Jong-il,” praising late Kim and running a giant picture of his smiling face on the front page. But no North Korean media has yet mentioned the grim fate of Kim Jong-nam, 45, Kim Jong-il’s oldest son.

North Korea’s media also reported on a national gathering of party and military officials at the Pyongyang Indoor Stadium on Wednesday also marking the late leader’s birthday. In the photo, a grim-faced Kim Jong-un sat before an audience.

Some analysts say it is unlikely that the North Korean media will report on Kim Jong-nam’s death in the near future.

Meanwhile, Choe Ryong-hae, vice chairman of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, was conspicuously missing from Kim’s entourage. Nor was he seen at the national gathering presided over by Kim earlier that day. Choe’s absence sparked questions over whether he had been demoted or purged from the inner circle. An official at Seoul’s Unification Ministry downplayed the idea, saying Choe also skipped the visit to the Kumsusan Palace and a similar national gathering last year. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Choe was last seen on Feb. 1.

“It is a bit of a stretch to say Choe might have been purged merely judging from his absence from Kim’s entourage Thursday.”

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