N Korea leader Kim still in charge, has leg injury

N Korea leader Kim still in charge, has leg injury

BEIJING/SEOUL - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is in firm control of his government but has hurt his leg, a source with access to the secretive North's leadership said, playing down speculation over the 31-year-old's health and grip on power.

North Korea's state media, which usually chronicles Kim's whereabouts in great detail, has not made any mention of his activities since he attended a concert with his wife on Sept. 3, and Kim was absent from early state media coverage of a major political anniversary on Friday.

In the previous two years, Kim marked the anniversary of the founding of North Korea's Workers' Party with a post-midnight visit to the Pyongyang mausoleum where the bodies of his father and grandfather are interred.

Last year, that visit was covered about four hours later by the state's KCNA news agency, and by the daily Rodong Sinmun newspaper. As of about 8 a.m. (7.00 p.m. EDT) on Friday, there was no KCNA report of an event at the mausoleum. Friday's Rodong Sinmun could not yet be seen on its website.

Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, did not always attend the Oct. 10 memorial event when he was in power.

The source, who has close ties to Pyongyang and Beijing, said on Thursday that Kim hurt his leg while inspecting military exercises.

"He ordered all the generals to take part in drills and he took part too. They were crawling and running and rolling around, and he pulled a tendon," the source told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"He injured his ankle and knee around late August or early September while drilling because he is overweight. He limped around in the beginning but the injury worsened," the source said.

Kim, who has rapidly gained weight since coming to power after his father died of a heart attack in 2011, had been seen walking with a limp since an event with important officials in July, which would imply he may have aggravated an earlier injury.

Kim needs about 100 days to recuperate, said the source, whose information could not be independently verified.

"Kim Jong Un is in total control," said the source.

Kim's absence from public view is fuelling speculation over the state of his health and whether he may have been sidelined in a power struggle.

"The longer he remains out of the public eye, the more uncertainty about him, and the status of his regime, will grow," said Curtis Melvin, a researcher at the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

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