SEOUL, Oct. 2 (UPI) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un toured a flood-damaged village along with his sister, Kim Yo Jong, who was appearing in public for the first time in over two months, state media reported on Friday.
The Kims and a group of other high-ranking officials visited the border county of Kimhwa, where more than 1,000 homes are being rebuilt after a series of typhoons pummeled North Korea over the summer, Korean Central News Agency reported.
Kim Yo Jong took on a larger profile in North Korea’s tightly controlled political sphere earlier this year, lashing out against South Korea and dismissing the idea of further nuclear negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump in a series of strongly worded statements issued in spring and summer.
She led an outspoken campaign against the South over defectors sending information leaflets on balloons across the border, which eventually led to North Korea cutting off all communications lines and blowing up the inter-Korean liaison office in the border city of Kaesong.
During a lengthy disappearance by Kim Jong Un in April that raised questions about his health, analysts believed that she was being positioned as a successor to her brother.
However, she has been out of the public eye since July, leading to further speculation that her power was being reined in.
Kim Jong Un praised the reconstruction efforts in the damaged village, citing the “world-startling achievements” of the military that led the repairs. Some 88% of the total construction project is complete, KCNA reported.
Kim did express disappointment in the designs of the new houses, however, calling them “monotonous” and saying that he wished “artistic harmony with the surrounding environment and diversity had been appropriately combined.”
The North Korean leader also said that the crops in the area appeared to have been salvaged from the flooding, unlike some other parts of North Korea that saw heavy damage.
North Korea was hit hard by a trio of typhoons in August and September, causing devastation to roads, railways and buildings and raising concerns over food shortages. State media reported that miles of crops had been submerged in heavy rains.
A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in August found that 60% of North Koreans are food insecure, with the impact of COVID-19 on the country’s economy further exacerbating the situation.
Despite the damage from the typhoons, North Korea is preparing to hold a military parade on Oct. 10 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea, and observers are closely watching for signs of new weapons being unveiled.