Kim Jong Un has been seen with a dark patch on the back of his head, sometimes covered with a bandage, sparking more speculation about his health.
The North Korean tyrant’s dark spot was first seen in late July when he attended a series of events, including a military parade and meetings with veterans.
The apparent wound, with a greenish tinge, was seen alternately uncovered or covered by a broad nude-colored plaster.
There has been much speculation about the 37-year-old’s health since he lost a significant amount of weight earlier this year, with his Mao-style suit hanging loosely over his shoulders and his features strikingly defined.
State media made the highly unusual decision in June to describe Kim as “starving” and “breaking the hearts of our people,” in an apparent effort to elicit sympathy for the despot who has publicly admitted there is a “major crisis” created by the pandemic.
Kim Jong-un with a plaster cast on the back of his head and without bandages, exposing a dark spot, during a military conference in Pyongyang from July 27 to 29
Kim Jong-un is seen with a bandage on the back of his head during the recent state television broadcast
The connection was clearly visible during certain moments of the broadcast, in the exact spot where it can be seen in other shots with a greenish marking
He is believed to have developed the mark on his head sometime after July 11, as he was seen performing on that date with musicians with no trace of it, according to the North Korean monitoring site. NK Daily.
It’s not the first time Kim has appeared in public with a curious mark on his body.
In May last year, he was seen with a small dark spot on his wrist that medical experts claimed was the result of a needle used in heart surgery.
Kim’s health has been the subject of international speculation for years, as his death would raise questions about the succession and stability in the nuclear-armed nation.
Known as a heavy smoker and a big eater, the leader has been obese for much of his life and seems to gain weight as he ages.
Kim’s father Kim Jong-Il and grandfather Kim Il-Sung were also obese and heavy smokers. Both died of a heart attack.
But he looked noticeably less heavy in recent media images published by Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency and on state television.
Some observers say Kim – who is about 5ft8in tall and previously weighed 308lbs – has lost between 22 and 44lbs.
Kim’s personal life is normally taboo for the North Korean state media and Pyongyang has never even confirmed how many children he has.
But KCTV last month aired a clip of an unnamed resident of the capital claiming that everyone in the country was “heartbroken” at his “starving” condition.
“When we see our respected general secretary looking gaunt, it breaks the hearts of our people the most,” he said.
“Everyone’s talking about their tears welling up right away.”
Analysts say Pyongyang is using Kim’s appearance to glorify him by portraying him as a “devoted, hard-working” leader as the country struggles to address the food crisis and other challenges.
“If outside observers have noticed the change in Kim’s appearance, you can be sure that the North Korean people have noticed it too, and more quickly,” said Christopher Green, a Korea specialist at Leiden University in the Netherlands.
It closed its borders in January last year to protect itself from the pandemic, and as a result trade with Beijing – its economic lifeline – has slowed down to a trickle as all international aid workers have left the country.
“The message Pyongyang is sending is that Kim is a leader who works very hard for his people, even to the extent of skipping meals and losing weight,” defector researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP.
Global speculation about Kim’s health flared up last year after he missed his late grandfather’s birthday commemoration and was absent from the public for about 20 days.
In 2016, the South Korean spy agency reported that Kim had gained weight to 285 pounds, after gaining about 90 pounds since taking power in 2011, “by eating and drinking.”
Last year it was estimated that he had gained another 20 pounds, bringing him to about 305 pounds.
Slim Kim: Korean leader Kim Jong Un has faced new speculation about his health because he appeared noticeably slimmer. In recent images from the state media, Kim appeared to have lost a lot of weight because his face is thinner and the strap on his beautiful watch is tighter.
Kim Jong Un waves to a crowd of eager military officers who look noticeably slimmer in his signature Mao suit in a photo released July 30
The North Korean leader – seen in a photo taken on July 24 – is said to have lost between 22 and 44 pounds this year
But Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, pointed out that his recent weight loss was unlikely to be a symptom of acute ill health, as he had attended several public events this month.
“No one can really know why he lost weight,” he told AFP. “What’s clear – from the KCTV footage – is that the regime wants the world to think its people love caring for their leader, to the point where they would cry at his gaunt appearance.”
Kim has acknowledged a “tense” food situation that could worsen if this year’s crops fail, exacerbating economic problems amid strict self-imposed border and movement restrictions that have slowed trade to a trickle.
“The most likely reason they would cite his weight loss this way would, in my opinion, be related to ongoing COVID-19-related border controls,” said Chad O’Carroll, CEO of Seoul-based Korea Risk Group.
“Regardless of the motivation for Kim’s rapid weight loss, it seems there is propaganda value in showing that even the leader of North Korea is experiencing the same food shortages that are currently afflicting the country.”
The regime may have wanted to emphasize from the outset that Kim is working hard for the people at a time of widespread hardship, or his posts may have been an unintended consequence of Kim’s inevitable appearance, Green said.
“The bottom line is that the North Korean regime has received word from its many, many, many informants that Kim’s condition was a topic of conversation among ordinary people,” he said.
North Korean state television says Kim Jong Un’s ‘starving’ condition is ‘breaking the hearts of our people’ in highly unusual broadcast (pictured at a concert last month)
“From there, it’s easy to respond by designing a propaganda strategy to use the existing public discussion to the benefit of the regime.”
The “pseudo-vox doll” — carefully organized by the state media to look authentic — like that of the unnamed Pyongyang resident was a common North Korean media tactic, he added.
It is unusual, but not unheard of, for North Korean state media to report on a leader’s health. In 2014, it reported that Kim – who had inherited his position from his father and grandfather before him – was suffering from “discomfort” after a long period out of the public eye.
With succession plans unclear, a sudden decline in Kim’s health could upset North Korea’s 76-year-old system of nuclear-weapon hereditary leadership.
“It’s a big weight loss and his health is important to the functioning and destiny of the state, which is why people are watching this closely,” said Town of 38 North.