Kim Jong-un looked noticeably slimmer when he was pictured in North Korean state propaganda this week — the first time in a month that he had been seen in public.
The despot led an economic meeting reportedly to have taken place on Monday, and appeared to have lost weight around his chin, chest and arms.
That has sparked new speculation about the “Supreme Leader”‘s health, a year after he allegedly suffered major health problems during an extended public absence – sparking false rumors that he had died.
MARCH 2021/JUNE 2021: Kim Jong Un appeared noticeably slimmer in recent propaganda images released by North Korea, sparking new speculation about his health
Observers have long warned that Kim’s health is likely the biggest threat to his brutal dynasty, speculating that his slimmer waist is a sign he’s regaining control.
While that absence has never been officially declared, it’s widely believed that Kim suffered from a health problem — an opinion reinforced by the fact that he’s appeared in public far less often since then.
His party has also been restructured to give a clear deputy role to his sister, Kim Yo-jong, amid speculation she would be groomed as a possible successor.
State propaganda has also been restructured to give more exposure to the Party’s powerful Central Committee and less to Kim.
Experts now believe Kim’s dwindling waistline may be a sign that his health is recovering, and a harbinger of his return to a more prominent role at the head of the country’s brutally repressive regime.
While Kim’s weight has long been the subject of ridicule, observers have pointed out that it may pose the greatest threat to his family dynasty.
Observers believe Kim, in his mid-thirties, weighed a whopping 22 (308 lbs) last November and was a heavy smoker.
That was at a time when Covid was believed to be circulating in the country, with obesity and lung problems both of which significantly increased the risk of death from infection.
Kim is said to have three children, but none old enough to assume leadership of the country when he dies.
JUNE 2021: Since his health scare last year, Kim has appeared less in public and delegated more powers – but experts think that could end if he cuts down (pictured)
FEBRUARY 2021: Kim is thought to be 22 (308 lbs) at his heaviest and is known to be a frequent smoker
The strict adherence to North Korea’s Paektu bloodline could potentially put sister Kim Yo-jong next in line to inherit, but it’s far from clear that she could command the respect of the country’s military leaders .
That could lead to a bloody power struggle and threaten the Kim dynasty that has ruled North Korea since the nation’s father Kim Il-sung came to power in 1948.
Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said: NK News that Kim’s weight loss “probably improves his standing at home.”
‘That in turn may provide more predictability for regional actors such as Japan, [South Korea ] and the US who may be more confident that he will run the show,” he added.
Kim was already noticeably overweight when he came to power in 2011, after the death of his father Kim Jong-il.
His weight continued to rise as he tightened his grip on the country, committing a spate of murders believed to include the murder of his own half-brother – Kim Jong-nam – who had been poisoned with a nerve agent at Malaysia’s main airport.
DECEMBER 2011: Kim was already noticeably overweight when he came to power (pictured), but his weight has continued to increase since then, potentially threatening the survival of his regime
But his size increased most in recent years when he completed the country’s nuclear program — begun under his grandfather and pursued by his father despite crippling international sanctions — in 2017.
He then embarked on a series of unprecedented international deplomacy missions, including the first-ever sit-down talks between a North Korean leader and the US president when he met Trump for two summits between 2018 and 2019.
Hailed as a major diplomatic victory for the north — and scorned as a humiliation for the US by critics of Trump — the meetings ended North Korea’s long-range missile tests but failed to deliver tangible gains to the Kim regime. achieve.
Then, in 2020, Kim suffered what is believed to be a major health crisis that saw him away from the public for 20 days, including missing birthday celebrations for his grandfather — an event no North Korean leader has missed before.
That sparked heated speculation, including a rumor that he had died during heart surgery, which ultimately turned out to be untrue.
Even when Kim appeared in public again, Eagle-eyed observers pointed to the markings on his wrist as possible evidence of heart surgery, while others theorized that it was in fact a body double and that the North Korean leader was still desperately ill.
Kim’s many public appearances have since quelled rumors of his death, but he has notably taken longer breaks from the public and a less prominent role in leading the ruling Communist Party.