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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea's Kim makes 1st public appearance in a month

Leader tours city development project ahead of regime's 10-year anniversary

SEOUL -- Kim Jong Un toured an urban development project as state media on Tuesday reported on a public appearance by the North Korean leader for the first time in more than a month.

Kim, who visited the northern city of Samjiyon to inspect a project set for completion this year, expressed "great satisfaction" with the progress of the work, the Korean Central News Agency said.

The leader hailed the construction in Samjiyon as "a starting point of a new revolution" for helping residents of regional areas enjoy "leaping progress to a highly civilized material and cultural life."

The inspection tour comes ahead of December's 10-year anniversary of Kim taking over as supreme leader. The autocrat apparently looks to promote a large development project in an outlying area as demonstrating the success of his leadership.

Kim appears noticeably thinner in photographs released by KCNA. South Korea's National Intelligence Service, based on artificial intelligence analysis, estimates that the leader lost 20 kg from his presumed 2019 weight of approximately 140 kg.

Kim last made a televised appearance in public during the first half of October, when he attended the opening of a weapons exhibition in Pyongyang and gave a speech justifying North Korea's development of missiles and nuclear weapons.

Samjiyon holds symbolic value since it is nestled at the base of Mount Paektu. The sacred mountain is said to be where Kim Il Sung, Kim's grandfather and the founding father of North Korea, battled Japanese occupation forces and launched the revolution.

Samjiyon's development began around 2018 upon Kim Jong Un's orders. Though the army and citizens were deployed to the project, construction was delayed due to the effects of international economic sanctions against North Korea.

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