As speculation still lingers over North Korean leader Kim Jong Un after he reappeared publicly on Saturday for the first time in 20 days, an official in South Korea says it doesn't appear the dictator had any medical procedure.
Video released by North Korea showed a smiling Kim moving around during the completion of a fertilizer factory near Pyongyang, with some observers still raising questions on whether he looked a bit stiff as he walked around the facility.
A South Korean government official told Fox News on Sunday that "our government believes" there was no indication that a medical procedure occurred on the leader of the Hermit Kingdom, who is believed to be 36, despite speculation he may have had a heart procedure.
North Korea still hasn't explained Kim's absence, including why he missed an April 15 commemoration that celebrated the 108th birthday of his late grandfather, North Korea founder Kim Il Sung. Unverified reports then emerged about a possible illness.
Kim is the third generation of his family to rule North Korea, and he hadn’t missed the April 15 event, one of the year's most important for the North, since assuming power after his father Kim Jong Il’s death in late 2011.
The Hermit Kingdom leader's health is of crucial importance because of worries that a serious illness or death could cause instability in the impoverished, nuclear-armed country.
North Korea exerts extremely tight control over information about its leadership, making it virtually impossible for outsiders to find out what’s going on at senior levels. But the South Korean government official told Fox News on Sunday that the images released of Kim at the plant "are authentic and a 'proof of life.'"
The South Korean government has insisted since Kim was missing that he was "alive and well," telling Fox News last Sunday that the dictator was staying in the Wonsan area since April 13 with "no suspicious movements" having been detected.
While he has ruled with an iron fist, the North Korean leader has had health issues in the past. In 2014, he vanished from the public eye for nearly six weeks before reappearing with a cane and using an electric cart. South Korea’s spy agency said days later that he had a cyst removed from his ankle.
The North Korea-provided footage on Saturday showed Kim riding an electric cart similar to the one he used in 2014 when he was reported to have the ankle injury.
Kim hasn’t publicly anointed his successor, and rumors about his health triggered worries about the North’s political stability and its nuclear program.
In 2018, Kim entered talks with President Donald Trump on the fate of his nuclear arsenal, but their diplomacy has been deadlocked in recent months. Trump tweeted Saturday that “I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!”
On Sunday, North and South Korean troops exchanged fire along their tense border, the first such incident since the rivals took unprecedented steps to lower front-line animosities.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff in Seoul said in a statement that North Korean troops fired several bullets at a South Korean guard post inside the border zone. South Korea responded with a total of 20 rounds of warning shots on two occasions before issuing a warning broadcast, it said.
South Korea suffered no casualties, the military said. Defense officials said it’s unlikely for North Korea to have any casualties either as the South Korean warning shots were fired at uninhabited North Korean territory. The North’s official Korean Central News Agency hasn’t reported the incident.
The South Korean government official told Fox News on Sunday that officials believe "the firing (by the North Koreans) was not intentional or 'in anger.'"
The Associated Press contributed to this report.