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Kim Jong-un makes public appearance after over a month

Seoul, Nov 16 (IANS) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un made his first public appearance after more than a month with a visit to the northwestern city of Samjiyon, near the border with China, where a major development project is underway, Pyongyang's state media reported on Tuesday.

Located at the foot of Mount Paekdu, the highest peak on the Korean Peninsula, Samjiyon is known to be the birthplace of Kim Jong-un's late father and former leader Kim Jong-il, reports Yonhap News Agency.

Developing the city has been one of Kim's pet projects since taking office in late 2011.

In a report, Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said that Kim Jong-un "gave on-the-spot guidance to Samjiyon City to learn about the real state of the third-stage project, with the conclusion of Samjiyon City construction now in hand", adding the development will be wrapped up this year.

The North originally planned to complete the Samjiyon development in three stages by 2020 in time for the 75th anniversary of the ruling party's foundation but failed to meet the deadline amid crippling sanctions and a prolonged border closure due to Covid-19.

Kim Jong-un praised officials for their "lofty loyalty, strong will and sweat" to push forward with the project and said the four-year construction proved "the iron will of our state to achieve prosperity our own way and with our own efforts".

The mass-scale project includes "the construction of dwelling houses for thousands of families, public and production buildings, educational facilities, a water supply and drainage system, roads, an afforestation and greening and power grid system". according to the KCNA.

North Korea elevated the status of Samjiyon from a county to a city after celebrating the completion of a major construction there in 2019 and has called for transforming the area into the "wealthiest" region in the country.

The latest visit marked Kim Jong-un's first public appearance reported in state media in more than a month, after he addressed a defence exhibition on October 11.