Korean Central News Agency / Korean News Service, File / AP
SEOUL, South Korea – The health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has long been a source of morbid fascination for rival South Korea, which lies in the shadow of the 1.2 million-strong army of Kim and his growing arsenal of nuclear missiles.
Did he gain even more weight? Does he have difficulty breathing after relatively short walks? And this cane? Why did he miss this important state anniversary?
Now the 37-year-old is once again facing further speculation in the South about his health. But this time it’s because he’s noticeably thinner.
Kim’s health is important in Seoul, Washington, Tokyo and other world capitals, as he has not publicly named a successor who would control an ongoing nuclear program targeting the United States and its allies – if he is. incapacitated. North Korea, never open to the inner workings of its leaders, closed itself even more closely last year to protect itself against the coronavirus pandemic.
In recent state media images, including those released on Wednesday, Kim appeared to have lost a lot of weight. The strap of her fancy watch is tighter and her face is thinner. Some observers say Kim – who is around 170 centimeters (5 feet, 8 inches) and previously weighed 140 kilograms (308 pounds) – may have lost around 10 to 20 kilograms (22 to 44 pounds).
Kim’s apparent weight loss is more likely an attempt to improve her health than a sign of illness, according to Hong Min, a senior analyst at the Korea National Unification Institute in Seoul.
“If he had any health problems, he would not have gone out in public to call the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party Central Committee,” a major political conference this week that is expected to last two to three days, Hong said.
Kim, known for her heavy drinking and smoking, comes from a family with a history of heart problems. His father and grandfather, who ruled North Korea before him, both died of heart problems. Experts said her weight could increase the possibility of cardiovascular disease.
South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it had no information to share about Kim’s health. Her slimmer look has received a lot of interest in South Korea, with media posting photos of her previous and current appearances.
Seo Yu-Seok, of the Seoul-based Institute of North Korean Studies, said the recent establishment by the North of a first secretary for the ruling Workers’ Party, the country’s No.2 post, may have been linked to possible Kim’s health issues. He said Kim may have authorized the creation of the post at the behest of senior officials, but still did not appoint anyone to the post because it could loosen his grip on power.
“If Kim is facing a real health problem and is in a state where he cannot express his opinions, although he is not dead, who will make the decision to appoint the first secretary?” Seo said.
When global speculation erupted over Kim’s health last year after missing the commemoration of her late grandfather’s birthday, some analysts speculated that Kim’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, was next in line. inherit power from his brother. Others said collective leadership was also possible.