North Korean leader Kim Jong Un appears to have lost a large amount of weight in state media images and videos published in recent days, fueling speculation about the state of his health in South Korea and elsewhere.
Some observers speculated Kim may have lost between 22 to 44 pounds and pointed out his watch strap was tighter and his face appeared thinner in recent meetings, according to The Associated Press (AP). The 37-year-old leader is believed to have previously weighed 308 pounds and stand at 5 feet, 8 inches.
What a difference 5 weeks makes! North Korea’s Kim Jong Un had not been seen in public for about a month. He’s now reappeared looking considerably thinner. Kim’s weight matters to spy agencies. Kim’s health affects regional security. His father & grandfather died of heart attacks pic.twitter.com/0cMjQFzzyB
— Will Ripley (@willripleyCNN) June 10, 2021
Other nations, especially the U.S. and South Korea, have taken interest in Kim’s health because he has yet to publicly declare a successor. North Korea’s head of state, dubbed the Supreme Leader, maintains absolute command of the nation’s standing army of 1.2 million soldiers and its growing arsenal of nuclear weapons.
The details of North Korea’s leadership are rarely made public, though there was speculation last year that Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong could be anointed as his replacement. (RELATED: North Korea Warns Of ‘Acute And Instable Situation’ In Message To Biden Administration)
Kim is known for heavy drinking and smoking, according to The AP. His family also has a history of heart problems as both his father and grandfather, who ruled North Korea before him, died from heart complications.
Seo Yu-Seok, a researcher at the Institute of North Korean Studies in Seoul, noted that Kim’s creation of a first secretary of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea earlier in June might have been related to the leader’s possible health issues.
— MSN (@MSN) June 10, 2021
“If Kim faces a real health problem and is in a condition in which he can’t express his opinions, though he isn’t dead, who will make a decision to name the first secretary?” Seo told The AP.
Kim’s apparent weight loss has garnered attention in South Korea and Japan in the past week, with several media outlets publishing photos of his previous and current appearances. South Korea’s unification ministry, however, said it had no new information regarding Kim’s health, according to The AP.
Hong Min, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, said Kim’s apparent weight loss was more likely an attempt to improve his health rather than a sign of possible health issues. Hong noted that Kim presided over a plenary meeting of the ruling party’s central committee, a major political conference that began Tuesday.
“If he was experiencing health problems, he wouldn’t have come out in public to convene the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee,” Hong told The AP.