North and South Korean forces briefly exchanged fire across the warring nations’ troubled border Sunday, just hours after Kim Jong Un made his appearance in public for several weeks after rumors of his possible death.
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said in a Sunday statement that at 7.41 a.m. local time that multiple shots were fired from the North Korean side of the border towards a guard post in the south.
The incident took place in the demilitarized zone between the two countries, near the city of Cheorwon, which is on the South Korean side of the border.
South Korean military personnel said they responded to the shots by returning “two rounds of gunfire and a warning announcement according to our manual,” according to the BBC.
Officials went on to say that they did not believe that the shots were an official provocation as they came from farmland and it was a foggy morning.
“In absence of vision [for the target] and in the fog, would there be an accurate provocation?” – the official said, according to Reuters.
The incident on the fiercely defended border came the morning after North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un appeared to make a first outing in public in several weeks, following widely circulated rumors that he was gravely ill or possibly even dead.
North Korean state media released images of the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, making his first public appearance after weeks of speculation about his health and whereabouts.
Kim attended the completion ceremony of a fertilizer plant north of the capital, Pyongyang on Saturday, marking his first public appearance since April 11, photos published by official state media outlets appeared to show.
Business Insider has not confirmed the authenticity of the images, or whether they were actually taken on Saturday.
As well as rumors of his death, it has also been speculated that Kim’s absence was down to him having heart surgery. Footage of Kim during his outing in Pyongyang Saturday appeared to show a black circular mark on his wrist, which some media outlets speculated is a sign he has had surgery.
Senior officials in South Korea said that they do not believe this is the case.
“There were speculative reports that Chairman Kim underwent a surgery citing some difference to his walk,” a senior official said, according to Reuters.
“We have reasons to believe that there was no surgery, but cannot disclose such details.”
As Kim appeared to reemerge after his period of absence from public life – which some have linked to possible fears about the North Korean leader contracting coronavirus – Britain’s Daily Mirror reported that there are fears he could embark on a campaign of executions and military brinkmanship as a means of reasserting his strongman image.
The newspaper reported that Kim is “likely to order a ‘wave of public executions’ and fresh nuclear threats against the West to re-establish credibility after being off grid for weeks.”
The Mirror cited an unnamed western security source as saying: “I believe we could expect a violent taking out of any perceived threat amongst Kim’s inner-circle.”