North Korea's Kim Jong Un missing at 'Day of the Sun' honors as nation insists no coronavirus cases

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.

Senior officials in North Korea paid tribute to the remote kingdom's founder Kim Il Sung Wednesday, but the apparent absence of current dictator Kim Jong Un raised questions about whether coronavirus played a part.

The Hermit Kingdom's most important holiday is April 15, the birthday of the country's first dictator, known as the “Day of the Sun.” It's a day that normally includes an immense military parade and synchronized public performances, sometimes involving tens of thousands.

But on Thursday, the Korean Central News Agency said only that a group of senior government, party and military officials paid tribute at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun for Kim Il Sung's 108th birthday.

NORTH KOREA GETTING $900G TO FIGHT CORONAVIRUS FROM WHO DESPITE CLAIMING NO CASES

There was no mention in North Korean state media if current ruler Kim Jong Un visited the mausoleum where the bodies of his grandfather and father, Kim Jong-il, are located. State media only said that floral baskets were "laid at the statues of the great leaders and mosaics picturing their smiling images."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not mentioned as taking part in ceremonies during the Hermit Kingdom's biggest holiday known as "Day of the Sun."

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was not mentioned as taking part in ceremonies during the Hermit Kingdom's biggest holiday known as "Day of the Sun." (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

According to South Korea's Yonhap News Agency, Kim hasn't skipped visiting the mausoleum during the holiday since inheriting power in 2011. State media typically reports on visits to the site the same day or following morning.

The official newspaper of North Korea's ruling party, the Rodong Sinmun, also did not show him attending but a floral basket was draped in a banner with his name.

Some North Korean observers theorized that Kim may have skipped the visit over concerns about COVID-19. The Hermit Kingdom has repeatedly said there hasn’t been a single case on its soil, but has implemented social distancing measures.

WHAT COUNTRIES HAVE NOT DECLARED ANY KNOWN CASES OF CORONAVIRUS?

In late March, the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported that more than 100 North Korean soldiers who were stationed at the border with China died from the virus. The South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo also claimed that Kim was spending "considerable time" away from the capital of Pyongyang due to the virus.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's apparent absence from ceremonies on the country's most important holiday is raising questions if its about coronavirus concerns or a shift in how he wants to shape his legacy.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's apparent absence from ceremonies on the country's most important holiday is raising questions if its about coronavirus concerns or a shift in how he wants to shape his legacy. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

But an official in South Korea's unification ministry told Yonhap that Kim had visited the mausoleum in mid-February for the birthday of his father when the coronavirus pandemic was accelerating in the region.

"It would be very unusual if Kim proves not to visit there," the official said Thursday on condition of anonymity. "There could be various analyses, including the easiest connection with COVID-19, but we need more time for our own."

CLICK HERE FOR FULL CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

North Korea released images in April of Kim supervising a motor drill and at a meeting of the ruling Workers' Party of Korea in Pyongyang. It remains unclear when the photos were taken.

Others think skipping the ceremonies on Wednesday had more to do with the current dictator trying to distance himself from his family and highlight his own legacy.

"Kim Jong Un wants to break away from the past, as well as the North's traditional cult of personality," Ahn Chan-il, a North Korean defector and researcher in Seoul, told Agence France-Presse.

"He wants to come across and brand himself as a leader who is modern and competent, rather than a descendant of his predecessors," he told the news agency. "And he wants to gradually tone down the idolization of the two late leaders as it goes against his agenda to brand the North as a 'normal state.'"

KIM JONG UN'S BIZARRE NORTH KOREA PROPAGANDA PHOTOS

Another North Korean observer noted that the country had an "unusually low-key commemoration" for the national holiday this year.

North Korea has claimed no coronavirus infections on its soil, but experts have cast doubt at that assertion.

North Korea has claimed no coronavirus infections on its soil, but experts have cast doubt at that assertion. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

“This could be part of North Korea’s ongoing propaganda effort to distance Kim Jong Un from the legacies of his grandfather and his father, a trend detected since the latter half of last year, the North’s handling of the party founding anniversary in October 2019 being one example,” Minyoung Lee, an expert in North Korean media and leadership, told NK News.

Celebrations in North Korea were noticeably quieter this year, with no large-scale events. A major marathon event in Pyongyang to mark the holiday was also canceled, according to Yonhap.

CLICK HERE FOR THE FOX NEWS APP 

Foreign experts have challenged the claim that there is not one single coronavirus infection on North Korean soil.

"It's impossible for North Korea not to have a single case of coronavirus," Jung H. Pak, a former CIA analyst on North Korea, previously told Fox News.

As of Thursday morning, there were at least 2,076,015 positive cases of COVID-19 and at least 138,008 deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Fox News' Barnini Chakraborty, Katherine Lam, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.