Where Is Kim Jong Un? North Korea’s Leader Appeared in Public 30 Percent Less in 2017

The exponential decline in public appearances from Kim Jong Un over the course of 2017 could be a sign the North Korean leader feels his regime is more stable and he has cemented his authority, according to the South Korean government. 

"Some analysis showed that this indicates that the regime has been stably controlled and [Kim] has strengthened internal solidarity, reducing the need for public activity,” Lee Eugene, vice spokesperson at South Korea's unification ministry, said Friday, according to The Korea Herald. 

Related: Trump Lost to North Korea's Kim Jong Un in 2017's War of Words, Experts Say

Kim appeared in public 30 percent less this year, the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency reported Friday, even as he continued to dominate headlines worldwide as his country conducted a series of long-range missile tests. 

According to an analysis of media reports, Kim appeared in public 102 times in 2017, down from 141 last year. Roughly half of all the North Korean leader's appearances were related to military activities––the most significant amount of time dedicated to such activities in years, according to the Japan-based Kyodo news agency. In 2016, only 36.9 percent of Kim's activities were military-related. The state dedicated a significant amount of time to advancing its military in its pursuit of a nuclear weapon capable of reaching the mainland U.S. 

12_29_North_Korea_Kim_Jong_Un North Korean leader Kim Jong Un presides over a target-strike exercise conducted by the special operation forces of the Korean People's Army at an undisclosed location, in this photo released on August 26. Getty Images

North Korea fired 23 missiles in 16 tests since February. The reclusive nation's most recent test occurred in late November, when it launched its most powerful intercontinental ballistic missile yet. The missile reached an altitude of approximately 2,800 miles––roughly 10 times higher than the International Space Station––and traveled for roughly 50 minutes before landing in the Sea of Japan. Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test in September and threatened to carry out a seventh test on the Pacific Ocean, which could pose a major risk to shipping and aircraft.

Related: How North Korea Would Wage War Against the U.S.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump and Kim engaged in a heated war of words, trading threats and insults from across the globe and leading some to suggest a war between the U.S. and North Korea could break out in the near future. Earlier this month, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who claimed to have frequently discussed North Korea with Trump while playing golf, said there's a 30 percent chance Trump will launch a military strike against Kim's regime.