The health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has long been a source of fascination for tabloids and it is a gift that keeps on giving, going by the latest reports. In recent photos released by the North Korean media, Kim is seen with an even slimmer figure to the point of almost being unrecognisable. The Korean Central News Agency released the pictures taken at a party meeting. The Daily Mail reported that state officials discussed “guiding the struggle” of their “Party and people to the next stage of victory.” The country is grappling with economic crises owing to the pandemic lockdowns, natural disasters and sanctions on its nuclear weapons programme.
The officials, while stressing that the dictator is healthy, claimed that he is “eating less for the sake of the country” which is facing acute food shortages. Speculations over Kim’s health started floating earlier in 2021 when he emerged after a weight loss of apparently 40lbs (about 20 kg). Although citizens have been ravaged by starvation and systemic oppression, State TV declared that Kim’s “emaciated” condition was “breaking people’s hearts.”
In a report in The Guardian, observers noted that his weight loss could be aimed at improving “physique” and no unusual instances were recorded in videos from North Korea. Rumours of an illness also started floating around in November when a slim Kim appeared in public after a month, his longest hiatus from the public eye in seven years.
North Korea was struck by heavy floods in 2020 which ruined crops and displaced families. Persistent floods and droughts have led to more destruction of harvests and subsequent shortages.
His slimmer look has been the focus of keen interest in South Korea, with media outlets publishing photos of his previous and current appearances. Kim’s health matters in Seoul, Washington, Tokyo and other world capitals because he hasn’t publicly anointed a successor who would control an advancing nuclear program targeting the United States and its allies — if he is incapacitated. North Korea, never open about the internal workings of its leadership, has over the last year shut itself up even tighter to protect against the pandemic.
Known for heavy drinking and smoking, Kim comes from a family with a history of heart problems. His father and grandfather both died of heart issues. Experts have said his weight could increase the possibility of cardiovascular diseases.