Russian President Vladimir Putin has awarded a commemorative medal of honor to North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un for his efforts to commemorate the Soviet soldiers who died during World War II.
Russia’s Embassy in Pyongyang said on Tuesday that Kim received the World War II medal from Putin in honor of his efforts to preserve the memory of fallen Soviet soldiers who died in North Korea during that war.
North Korea’s foreign minister received the medal, named “75 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War 1941-1945,” on behalf of Kim, who was not present at the ceremony at the Mansudae Assembly Hall, the seat of the Supreme People’s Assembly in Pyongyang.
Kim earned the honorary medal “for his great personal contribution to the commemoration of dead and buried Soviet citizens on the territory of the DPRK [North Korea] and showing concern about the safety of the Soviet soldiers’ graves and memorial sites,” according to the Russian Embassy.
The ceremony took place shortly after the North Korean leader made his first public appearance following almost three weeks of absence that sparked intense speculation about his health and well-being.
Speculation about Kim’s health and location spread after his unprecedented absence from April 15 celebrations to mark the birthday of his late grandfather and North Korea’s founder, Kim Il-sung.
Foreign media rumored that Kim’s health had deteriorated due to heavy smoking and obesity, claiming he had undergone heart surgery and possibly died.
On Saturday, the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported that the North Korean leader was well and had inaugurated a fertilizer plant in a region lying north of the capital, Pyongyang.