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N.K. leader's public activities hit 5-year low in 2016: data

2016/12/31 10:22

SEOUL, Dec. 31 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un carried out the fewest public activities this year since he took office in late 2011, data showed Saturday, amid toughened international scrutiny over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

The North's leader conducted 132 field guidances in 2016, compared to 153 cases recorded the previous year, according to Seoul's unification ministry and analysis of North Korean media reports by Yonhap News Agency.

Since his public appearances peaked at 212 in 2013, they have been on the decline, the data showed.

Experts said that a fall in Kim's field guidance comes as the international community is keeping close tabs on his activity following Pyongyang's nuclear and missile tests.

"It may be attributable to the international community's tougher scrutiny of Kim's activities as North Korea made more nuclear and missile provocations this year," said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University.

The United Nations Security Council slapped tougher sanctions on the North in March for its fourth nuclear test in January and long-range rocket launch in the following month. It also imposed more sanctions against Pyongyang in November for the fifth nuclear detonation in September.

Experts also said that the North's leader further reaffirmed his power base by holding a party congress in May, reducing the need to show his presence publicly.

This year, Kim reasserted his one-man leadership by holding two key events that analysts say served as his coronation -- a rare congress by the ruling Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) in May and a parliamentary meeting in June.

Jo Yong-won, a vice director of the WPK's central committee, accompanied Kim the most on the leader's inspections with 47 occasions this year, followed by top military official Hwang Pyong-so with 40 cases, the data showed.

"Jo seems to be the most frequent member of Kim's entourage as the North's leader focused on the role of the party rather than the military," said Kim Keun-sik, a professor at Kyungnam University.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

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