North Korean television broadcast an unusual comment from a local resident about Kim Jong Un’s “lean” physique, a startling remark in a country where any mention of the leader’s private life and health condition is forbidden.
According to analysts, this remark reflects the authorities’ desire to exploit the weight loss incurred by the North Korean leader to strengthen loyalty to the struggling regime.
North Korea, whose economy is weighed down by multiple international sanctions imposed in response to its banned military programmes, is more isolated than ever since closing its borders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
In mid-June, Kim admitted that his country was suffering from a food crisis, and sounded the alarm in a country where the agricultural sector has since experienced serious difficulties.
The leader’s health is under close international scrutiny, and his sudden disappearance will raise issues related to his succession and the stability of the regime.
This hardcore smoker has been obese for a long time and his weight has continued to increase in recent years.
Recently, he appeared in photos released by North Korea’s official KCNA agency or in government TV footage, weighing less than a pound.
Mr. Kim’s privacy is a taboo for North Korean media, but last week KCTV aired a clip in which a resident of the capital claims the entire country is “sad” when he saw his “poor state”.
He said, “Seeing our esteemed Secretary-General emaciated is what breaks the hearts of our people the most.”
Analysts say Pyongyang is using Kim’s appearance to glorify him by portraying him as a “loyal and hardworking” leader as the country struggles to deal with a food crisis, among other things.
North Korea closed its borders in January 2020 and trade with China, its first economic and diplomatic support, has fallen into a stalemate.
“The message Pyongyang is sending is that Mr. Kim is a leader who works hard for his people, to the point of skipping meals and losing weight,” defector Ahn Chan-il told AFP. A North Korean has become a researcher at the International Institute for North Korean Studies, based in Seoul.
Last year, the leader did not appear in public for three weeks, prompting speculation about his health.
His absence was especially noted on April 15, 2020, the most important day in North Korea’s political calendar as the entire country commemorates the birth of the regime’s founder Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the current leader.