April 16 (UPI) -- Kim Jong Un did not attend the annual ceremony observing the birth anniversary of founder Kim Il Sung on Wednesday, an unprecedented move for the North Korean leader since he fully assumed power in 2012.
Kim, who had raised concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic during a Politburo meeting on Saturday, was not leading the ceremony at the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun marking the 108th anniversary of Kim Il Sung's birth, state media photos show.
Kim Jong Un did send a basket of flowers in his name, however, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
State media reports regarding the ceremony came relatively late on Thursday. North Korea did not mention Kim Jong Un's name, and state media did not offer a reason for his absence.
Senior North Korean officials, including President of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly and First Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Choe Ryong Hae, and Vice Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Pak Pong Ju, were in attendance.
The North Korean leader may be staying away from public events amid the coronavirus pandemic. Pyongyang has claimed zero cases of COVID-19, but has also refrained from reopening its borders.
An official from South Korea's unification ministry said Kim Jong Un's absence at the important anniversary is "out of the ordinary," according to South Korean news service News 1 on Thursday.
"After assuming power, Kim has without omission attended the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun ceremony," the ministry said, according to local news service Seoul Pyongyang News.
COVID-19 may have forced North Korea to postpone some of its major construction projects, according to News 1.
Prior to the outbreak, North Korea had prioritized the opening of the Wonsan-Kalma Tourist Zone. Tourism revenue was an important source of income for the regime before the shutdown in January.
North Korea has since shifted its focus to the construction of a hospital in Pyongyang.