North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who has been a no-show at public events in the country since Sept. 3, appeared to return to the public eye Tuesday with photos of him touring building projects running on the front page of North Korea's daily, Rodong Sinmun. His limp of mysterious provenance was also back, along with a cane that only fuels speculation that the head of the totalitarian regime is unwell.

Cheong Seong-chang, of the Sejong Institute in South Korea, told the Associated Press that, compared to photos of Kim from May, the leader appears to have lost about 20 pounds and that he might be walking with a cane after ankle surgery.

But as the BBC's Stephen Evans, who is stationed in Seoul, points out, based purely on these new photos of Kim, it's "impossible to know how easily Kim Jong-un is walking - did he walk for long, was he standing simply for the photographer?"

According to the Korean Central News Agency, Kim toured a number of housing developments in Pyongyang, grinning for photos. From the New York Times:

The photos showed Mr. Kim looking around brand-new eight-story apartment buildings and top military generals and party secretaries taking notes while he spoke — a scene typical of such a visit by the top leader.

During the trip, Mr. Kim also inspected a newly completed building for an energy research institute, the agency said. He later posed for a group picture before the statues of his father and grandfather, the agency said.

Speculation swirled that Kim was suffering from illness when state media reported last month that he was feeling "discomfort."

[Image via AP]