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North Korea Releases Photo Of Kim Jong-Un As Gunfire Exchanged With South Korea

North Korea has exchanged gunfire with South Korea one day after photos of dictator Kim Jong-un were released by the country following weeks of speculation over his health.

Several gunshots were fired from North Korea at 7:41 am on Sunday (local time) towards a guard post in South Korea that borders the north, the South's Joint Chiefs of Staffs said in a statement.

South Korea responded by firing two shots towards North Korea but no injuries were reported, JCS said.

It comes just one day after the country's Central News Agency published images of Kim cutting a ribbon to celebrate a fertiliser plant's completion.

Politics

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Who Is Kim Yo-Jong? Little Sister Of North Korea's Dictator Emerges As Likely Successor

As rumours swirl about North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un's health, could his trusted sister Kim Yo-jong be the next in line to take his place?

There has been intense speculation about Kim's health after the leader went missing from the public eye around three weeks ago on April 11.

Questions were first raised about Kim's whereabouts when he was not seen at his grandfather's birthday, a significant event for the country, on April 15.

CNN reported Kim was in "grave danger" after undergoing surgery but this was quickly dismissed by South Korean officials, as well as US President Donald Trump.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un claps during a ceremony at a fertiliser factory in South Pyongan, North Korea. Image: AP

Trump said CNN's report had been based off "old documents" before teasing reporters he knew about Kim's condition but could not comment further.

Trump, who met Kim three times in 2018 and 2019 in unsuccessful attempts to persuade him to give up his nuclear weapons, tweeted on Saturday: "I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!"

However, the photos of Kim have not erased rumours about the leader's health.

The 36-year-old is known to be a heavy smoker and has reportedly put on weight in recent years.

Kim Jong-un visits a fertiliser factory in South Pyongan, North Korea. Image: AP

Some pointed to the presence of a white stick in one of the photos, claiming it could be a cane. While others said it was likely to be a a presentation pointer.

Others noticed a guard wearing a face mask in one image, suggesting it poked holes in North Korea's claims it has no cases of COVID-19.

State TV footage showed Kim's leg movements appearing stiff and jerky and one of the images showed a green golf cart in the background, similar to one he used in 2014 after a lengthy public absence.

World

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A Look At Past Disappearances Of North Korean Leaders

While Kim Jong-un's two-week absence has inspired speculation and rumours that he is gravely ill, he is not the first member of North Korea's ruling elite to disappear from public view.

Specialist North Korea website NK News also spotted a dark coloured mark on Kim's arm in video footage, which was not there on April 11.

It quoted medical professionals as saying it could be related to a cardiovascular procedure - possibly a stent placement.

The lack of a clear successor for Kim has raised fears about security in the event of political turmoil in North Korea, which borders US strategic rival China.

With AAP

Do you have a story tip to share? Contact Eden at egillespie@networkten.com.au