North Korean observers are eager to understand leader Kim Jong Un’s apparent weight loss – which some say may be a sign of deteriorating health.
The notoriously portly bully looked noticeably slimmer in photos released by state media on Saturday – after not being seen in public for a month, the Guardian reported.
South Korea-based NK News, which analyzed photos of Kim addressing a ruling party’s political bureau meeting last week, said he appeared to have lost “a significant amount of weight.”
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If he has intentionally lost weight for health reasons, it “probably improves his position at home,” Vipin Narang, associate professor of political science at MIT said Tuesday.
Being safer at home “in turn offers perhaps more predictability for regional players like Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United States who may have more confidence that he will lead the show.” Narang said.
However, it is a very different outlook if it is due to poor health.
“Yes [the sudden weight loss] is due to a health problem, the maneuvers for his succession may already be taking place behind the scenes and this volatility could be a problem for the outside world “if he were to die suddenly,” Narang said.
NK News forensic analysis of the footage suggests Kim looked slimmer – and the luxury watch he frequently wears appeared to be tighter than before.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reportedly told lawmakers in November that it believed Kim weighed 308 pounds and had “gained an average of 6 to 7 kilograms per year”, or 13 to 15 pounds, since taking office in late 2011 .
“On the surface, noticeable weight loss may not mean much, but it may provide clues to other information investigators are looking for,” Mike Brodka, an intelligence officer with United Nations Command, also told NK News. United States special operations in South Korea.
“It may be a simple matter of a healthy lifestyle change or a more complex issue,” Brodka said.
“At the moment, we don’t know, but it raises enough serious questions that we have to pay attention to events over the next two months to find out.”
Kim, a heavy smoker, has struggled with health issues that watchers have linked to her weight and lifestyle, the Guardian noted.
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In 2014, he disappeared for almost six weeks before reappearing with a cane. Days later, the South Korean spy agency claimed he had undergone surgery to remove a cyst from his ankle.
And a three-week absence last spring sparked rumors he fell seriously ill after undergoing heart surgery – although a more plausible theory was that he had just self-isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.
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