After whispers of Kim Jong Il’s sister falling seriously ill in recent months, Kim Kyong Hui has appeared for a second time during Kim Jong Un’s visit to the Kumsusan Palace of Sun on Wednesday.
The visit, to celebrate the 67th founding of the Workers’ Party, comes on the heels of Kim Kyong Hui’s appearance at a national ceremony on October 7th. Her month-long absence had set off rumors that she was in poor health, leading to speculation about what her demise could mean for the regime.
Though Kim has on occasion disappeared for weeks at a time in the past, her place within the North Korean leadership naturally leads to concerns that her death might bring about instability in the top ranks.
It is possible that the North Koreans have put her forward now to put an end to such talk, but rumors are likely to persist into the future given Kim’s age and poor health from a reported life of heavy drinking.
In the short-term, talk may shift to where Kim Jong Un’s wife Ri Sol Ju has gone, given that she has also been absent from public view for a now too.
Given the recent tensions along the disputed Northern Limit Line, the presence of a new North Korean naval commander will also draw the attention of experts and officials alike.
Recent maritime tensions led to concerns that North Korea could launch some sort of provocation before U.S. elections in November or South Korean elections in December.
Kim Myong Sik, who was promoted to Lieutenant General in February, has apparently taken over from Jong Myong Do (last seen in March of this year).
Kim, pictured below on the left meeting a delegation of the Chinese navy in August 2011, is an alternate member of the party central committee and was a member of the Kim Jong Il funeral committee in December 2011.
Little else is known about his background, and it remains to be seen whether he will take over Jong Myong Do’s spot on the party Central Military Commission as well.