North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is apparently staying well away from Pyongyang in a country retreat after the ouster of eminence grise Jang Song-taek.
Kim was last seen in public at a military base in Ryanggang Province on Nov. 29. The official KCNA news agency reported that Kim toured the province on Nov. 30, but he has not been pictured since. Some North Korea watchers believe Kim is still lying low in Ryanggang Province, which is on the border with China.
KCNA reported on Dec. 1 that Kim sent a congratulatory message to Laos and encouraged workers on Dec. 5, but there were no official sightings.
Kim left Pyongyang at around the time that South Korean intelligence officials have pinpointed as the time when two of Jang's close confidants were publicly executed. Kim seems to have been accompanied by the head of his state security agency and other top officials.
Ri Yong-ha and Jang Su-gil, who were public executed in November, "were both high-ranking officials in the Workers Party and it is highly likely that they were investigated for damaging the party by high-ranking members," said Chung Sung-jang at the Sejong Institute.
Chung said Ri was accused of abusing his authority, while Jang was found guilty of trying to organize a new faction and rejecting the system.
But sources said there were no signs of unrest in Pyongyang or elsewhere.