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Kim Jong-un all smiles and social distancing weeks after mysteriously vanishing

Kim Jong-un seemed in good spirits as he chaired a meeting of his ruling Workers Party’s politburo – while sitting two metres apart from colleagues.

The North Korean leader, who was reportedly seriously ill several weeks ago, appeared to be observing social distancing at the meeting in Pyongyang.

Kim was sitting away from others at the meeting, despite North Korea still officially claiming to have had no cases of coronavirus.

However, other party officials were sitting far closer to each other than their leader.

Some reports claimed that Kim had died or undergone major surgery in April when he mysteriously vanished from the public eye and missed a key Day of the Sun event to celebrate his grandfather.

He appeared to be keeping well away from colleagues (Image: KCNA VIA KNS/AFP via Getty Image)

Images showed the chairs either side of the North Korean despot, thought to be 36, appeared to have been removed to ensure he was kept at a safe distance.

Kim seemed in fine form as he beamed for the cameras in images later released by the state media machine.

The paranoid dictator is said to have fled the capital Pyongyang in April on his private train and headed to Wonsan-Kalma peninsula where he has a private villa compound.

Reports from South Korea at the time of his absnce suggested Kim – who is overweight and has a history of diet-related illness – underwent heart surgery on April 12 after collapsing while on a walk.

At the meeting, Kim focused on domestic economic issues at a meeting of the politburo of the country’s ruling Workers Party.

The meeting discussed “crucial issues arising in further developing the self-sufficient economy of the country and improving the standard of people’s living,” state news agency KCNA said.

Kim did not mention the North’s increased criticism of South Korea or of the North Korean defectors who call it home.

For several days, North Korea has lashed out at South Korea, threatening to close an inter-Korean liaison office and other projects if the South does not stop defectors from sending leaflets and other material into the North.

On Monday, North Korea did not answer a routine daily liaison phone call from South Korean officials for the first time since 2018, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said.

The ministry has said South Korea remains committed to following inter-Korean agreements, and it is considering proposing legislation to ban groups from sending material into North Korea.

Although North Korea says it has no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, South Korea’s main intelligence agency has said an outbreak there cannot be ruled out.

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