July 16 (UPI) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been shying away from the limelight in the first half of 2020, as the country closed its borders in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jang Cheol-un, a researcher at Seoul's Korea Institute for National Unification, said Thursday in an analysis of Kim's public activities the North Korean leader has made a record low number of appearances since he fully assumed power in 2012, News 1 and Yonhap reported.
Kim has appeared in public a total of 19 times in 2020, registering significantly decreased activity than in the first half of 2019, when he appeared at different occasions at least 40 times, the report says.
Jang said in his analysis the North Korean leader may have reduced his attendance at public events due to concerns over the coronavirus.
Kim took part in military-related activities a total of 10 times this year, which accounts for more than half of his known public appearances. Kim has also been seen at the site for a new hospital in Pyongyang, and at the opening of the Sunchon Phosphatic Fertilizer Factory, following a four-week absence.
The pandemic has dimmed the chances of another major summit involving Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump, but U.S. analysts suggest Trump is not ruling out a summit with Kim ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
Harry Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Center for the National Interest, said in an article in the American Conservative published Thursday the Trump administration is considering new proposals for a "breakthrough" with North Korea.
"If a deal can be struck, the hope is that the agreement would be signed in a potential third summit this fall, in an Asian capital within train or flying distance of Pyongyang," Kazianis writes.
In 2019, a former Mongolian official told UPI a future U.S.-North Korea summit in the Mongolian capital could not be ruled out.
Kim and Mongolian President Khaltmaagiin Battulga recently exchanged letters, according to North Korean state media on Wednesday.