August 28, 2015 09:34
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has vanished from public view since he called an urgent meeting of the Workers Party's Central Military Commission a week ago.
Kim was pointedly absent from an event marking the 55th Songun Day on Monday, which commemorates his father Kim Jong-il's military-first doctrine.
Also unseen since the Aug. 20 meeting were Ri Yong-gil, the chief of the Army's General Staff, and Kim Yong-chol, the director of the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, who were in the chain of command when two South Korean soldiers were maimed by box mines planted by the North.
In contrast, Hwang Pyong-so, the chief of the Army politburo, and Kim Yang-gon, the Workers Party secretary for South Korean affairs, have taken turns appearing on state media to explain the agreement reached at high-level cross-border talks.
Kim's weeklong disappearance at this crucial juncture suggests that he may be trying to avoid a public backlash.
Many top officials are reportedly embarrassed by the way the mine provocation has backfired, and Kim himself is thought to be no supporter of the military-first doctrine.
The regime succeeded in putting out the fire when South Korea resumed propaganda broadcasts across the demilitarized zone, but only at the cost of an unprecedented expression of regret for the maiming of the two soldiers.
That could be seen as a loss of face for Kim, who is still struggling to establish his authority.
Some pundits expect the military leaders who ordered the planting of mines in the DMZ could be called to account and suffer a similar purge as other unruly military leaders over the last two years.
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