New photos of North Korea’s Kim show signs of weight loss, spark debate over health

To North Korea watchers, Kim Jong-un’s reducing waistline is a matter of significant strategic concern

  • Publish Date - 8:06 pm, Thu, 10 June 21
New photos of North Korea’s Kim show signs of weight loss, spark debate over health
In an impoverished, agriculture based nation such as North Korea, Kim Jong-un's waistline is normally seen as a sign of great prosperity (Image source: AFP)

Reclusive North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has sparked renewed debate on the state of his health after new photos appear to suggest that he has lost a noticeable amount of weight. Compared to his photos taken in June 2020, his photos in June 2021 show the dictator looking significantly trimmer.

Seoul-based NK News was the first to highlight this apparent weight loss and also featured an enlarged image that appeared to show Kim’s favourite IWC Schaffhausen Portofino watch being fastened more tightly around his wrist as compared to previous images.

These images come at a time when many North Korea watchers are increasingly speculating on Kim’s state of health. Kim is known to be a heavy smoker who has struggled with health conditions that relate to his weight and lifestyle.

South Korean intelligence estimated Kim’s weight last year at 140 kg while saying the leader had gained an average of six to seven kilogrammes every year since he took over as supreme leader of North Korea.

Kim Jong-un has disappeared from the public eye for extended periods more than once in the last few years, always sparking rumours of possibly deteriorating health conditions.

Still, given how little is actually know by the outside world about North Korea and its leader, it is hard to say if the weight loss is due to some kind of ailment or a conscious decision by Kim.

Some analysts have pointed towards the ongoing food crisis in the country where the country is facing severe food shortages as a result of the economic crisis and ongoing COVID-19 restrictions to trade with China.

Trimming down, then, essentially becomes a literal message to the people of North Korea that Kim Jong-un is also ‘tightening his belt’ in this national food crisis.

The imagery is quite significant in North Korea as being overweight is usually perceived as a status symbol in the country, living proof of prosperity so to speak. If the leader looks well-fed, then clearly the country’s situation cannot be so bad or so the logic goes. But now the situation may have changed.

Though this may seem to be just idle speculation, watching Kim Jong-un’s weight is actually a serious subject for foreign intelligence communities.

If the weight loss is intentional and Kim is trying to secure his position back home, this means that the situation within North Korea, a nuclear-armed state, is at least passably stable.

But if the weight loss is a sign of declining health, then it could mean that a significant internal power struggle is about to break out. That, to put it mildly, could be bad.

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