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Kim absent from public view amid concerns about new coronavirus

North Korea 18:11 February 10, 2020

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been absent from public view for more than two weeks amid concerns about the new coronavirus sweeping through the region, even though the communist nation has not reported any confirmed case yet.

Kim was last seen in public around at a concert in Pyongyang celebrating Lunar New Year's Day on Jan. 25. He has since not appeared in state media reports.

Pyongyang also quietly marked the 72nd anniversary of its army's founding on Saturday with no reports of the leader's attendance at the events.

"Army-Building Day," which commemorates the 1948 establishment of the Korean People's Army (KPA), is one of North Korea's biggest national holidays.

The North's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, reported Sunday that North Korean military officers visited the statues of the former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il in commemoration of the army's founding.

The paper mentioned Kim Jong-un only briefly, saying that he had sent a floral basket to "the statues of the great leaders on Mansu Hill."

It was unclear why Kim has stayed away from public activity, but his absence could be related to concerns about the new coronavirus. Pyongyang has been making all-out efforts to prevent the viral disease from reaching the country.

Kim was seen in public at military events before and during the army's founding day every year since he came to power after the death of late leader and his father Kim Jong-il in late 2011.

At the 70th anniversary in 2018, he attended the mass military parade in Pyongyang and went to the largest-ever fire drill in 2017 when tensions between the United States and North Korea had escalated.

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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