North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made his first public appearance in more than 40 days, resurfacing in state media photos carrying a large cane.

The official Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday that Kim gave "field guidance" at a residential district and a science institute, a regular routine for the young leader.

KCNA, along with the country's main newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, published photos of a smiling Kim leaning on a black cane, which he carried in his left hand.

The reports did not say when the photos were taken. They also did not mention Kim's prolonged absence or why he was carrying the cane.

The disappearance of Kim, regarded by many North Koreans as a near divine figure, prompted global speculation that he was suffering a serious health or political problem.

The North Korean leader, believed to be 31 years of age, succeeded his father Kim Jong Il in 2011. He had last been seen September 3 at a concert by his favorite pop group, the Moranbong Band, a group consisting of five young women, all hand-picked by Kim.

He then missed several high-profile political events, including a meeting of the country's ceremonial parliament in late September and last Friday's anniversary of the ruling Korean Worker's Party.

Two months earlier, the portly Kim was seen awkwardly limping across a stage at a ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the death of his grandfather, the country's founding president, Kim Il Sung.

A short time later, a North Korean state television documentary mentioned in passing that Kim was experiencing unspecified "discomfort."

South Korean officials have insisted they have no information indicating any serious political or health problems for the leader, who is thought to be a heavy smoker and suffer from gout.