SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea's young leader wasn't in his customary seat as the country convened its rubber-stamp parliament Thursday, adding to South Korean media speculation that Kim Jong Un may be ill.
Only part of the meeting of the Supreme People's Assembly was shown on state TV, but Kim was not present and apparently missed the meeting for the first time since he took power after the death of his father Kim Jong Il in December 2011, according to an official for the South's Unification Ministry who spoke on condition of anonymity because of office rules.
The usually ubiquitous Kim, the third member of his family to rule the country, has not been seen in state media since attending a Pyongyang concert on Sept. 3. He was shown limping on television in July and again earlier this month, and South Korean media have speculated that Kim has been ill, although there has been no discussion of the absence in the authoritarian North's state-run media.
North Korean media said that the assembly approved the promotion of an official seen as a rising confidante of Kim's, Hwang Pyong So, as the vice chairman of the country's powerful National Defense Commission.
The Supreme People's Assembly rarely meets more than once a year, although this was the second such session this year. In practice it has little power, and when it is not in session, its work is done by a smaller and more powerful body called the Presidium.
North Korea opened polling stations in March for voters to approve a new roster of deputies for the assembly, and Kim was elected unanimously with 100 percent turnout in his district. North Korean elections have predetermined outcomes with one candidate per district.