North Korean leader Kim Jong-un remained out of public view for the 20th straight day amid persisting speculation about his health and who will take over the nuclear-armed nation after him, the media reported on Friday.
Kim was last seen in state media on April 11 presiding over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers' Party. State media have since carried reports about him handling state affairs, such as sending messages to foreign leaders, but no photo or video of him has been released, reports the Seoul-based Yonhap News Agency.
Sparking speculation about Kim's health was his absence from a key ceremony commemorating the 108th birth anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder, Kim Il-sung.
He has never skipped a visit to the mausoleum on the April 15 anniversary since taking office in late 2011.
The speculations escalated after a CNN report last week, citing a US official, said that Washington was looking into intelligence that Kim Jong-un was in "grave danger" after a surgery.
But North Korean state media outlets, such as the main Rodong Sinmun newspaper and the official Korean Central News Agency, have put out routine stories, such as Kim Jong-un sending diplomatic letters and conveying gifts to honored citizens.
On Friday, the Rodong Sinmun urged North Koreans to rally around their leader, said the Yonhap News Agency report.
"We must stay absolutely loyal to our leader and trust him no matter how strong the storm hits us," the newspaper said.
The Minju Choson, the North's cabinet newspaper, also carried a similar report.
They have also reported on the public activities and on-site inspection trips of top officials, including the country's No. 3 leader Pak Pong-ju and Premier Kim Jae-ryong, in an indication that business was going on as usual.
Meanwhile, South Korean officials have rejected the speculations, saying there were no unusual signs that something might be wrong with the North's leader, and he was believed to be staying in the east coast region of Wonsan.
It is not rare for Kim Jong-un to disappear from the public eye.
His longest absence from public view was in September 2014, when he disappeared for an unprecedented 40 days and returned limping.
Seoul's intelligence agency later said that he had a cyst removed from his ankle.
( With inputs from IANS )