Pyongyang: North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was an apparent no-show when his rubber stamp parliament convened Thursday for its second session this year, an absence likely to fuel speculation about his health.
Kim, who has not been seen in public for several weeks, did not feature in state television footage of the event and a dispatch from the North`s official KCNA news agency did not list him among the officials present.
Kim`s last public appearance was at a concert he attended with his wife on September 3.
South Korean media reports have suggested health issues are behind the absence, noting that recent footage of the young leader has shown him looking overweight and walking with a pronounced limp.
Kim usually attends sessions of the Supreme People`s Assembly which only meets once or twice a year to rubber-stamp budgets or other decisions made by the ruling party.
Thursday`s session saw the man widely seen as second only to Kim in the leadership hierarchy, Hwang Pyong-So, cement his position by being appointed a vice-chairman of the powerful National Defence Commission.
Hwang took the place of Choe Ryong-Hae, whom he had already replaced in May as political chief of the military.
Choe was initially believed to have moved into the role of North Korea`s unofficial number two following the execution last December of Kim`s uncle and political mentor, Jang Song-Thaek.
But his star appears to have dimmed of late, while Hwang has moved swiftly up the power structure.
Hwang, 64, was a top official in the ruling party`s Organisation Guidance Department with a portfolio that included the physical and political protection of Kim Jong-Un before he became leader on the death of his father Kim Jong-Il in 2011.
KCNA said Choe had been "recalled" from his NDC role due to his "transfer to another post."
The parliamentary session coincided with the ongoing UN General Assembly in New York, where South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Wednesday urged the world to help bring peace to the divided Korean peninsula.
"I call on the international community to stand with us in tearing down the world`s last remaining wall of division," she told the assembly.
Park also reiterated her pledge to engage North Korea if it pursues "a different path" that includes giving up nuclear weapons.