South Korean spy agency sources were widely cited late this week as saying Kim Jong Un has lost up to an estimated 44 pounds within a short period of time. Throughout the summer his clearly rapid weight reduction based on multiple appearances aired on state TV has triggered widespread speculation on whether he’s suffering ill-health, given the very short span of a mere months over which the dramatic physical transformation too place.
“The National Intelligence Service believes Kim has lost 10 to 20 kilograms (22 to 44 pounds), a South Korean lawmaker briefed by the agency told reporters Thursday,” according to international reports. However, South Korean intelligence officials haven’t given any confirmation of health abnormalities.
Starting last month the Associated Press and others described the North Korean strongman as “noticeably slimmer” as recent side-by-side photographs showing a quick months-long transformation clearly showed.
His face appears smaller with his clothes fitting looser, and his watch much tighter on his wrist. North Korean intelligence routinely monitors official images of Kim for any signs of changes in health.
And yet he’s continued holding hours-long meetings and other than the weight loss nothing else has appeared unusual in terms of mannerisms or his walking and speaking.
— Ankit Panda (@nktpnd) June 8, 2021
Lately the country has faced multiple severe crises given that for over the past year North Korea has been even more isolated than usual, with Pyongyang having ordered a total closure of all borders in efforts to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading – a drastic move which at the same time has resulted in less food and medicines making it in. This also as crops were devastated by a harsh monsoon season.
Kim’s weight loss could in reality point to the opposite of the widespread speculation: it’s entirely possible he slimmed down quickly for reasons of good health…
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
On this point, the Korea observer site NK News provided the following analysis:
If Kim lost the weight intentionally to get healthier, then that “likely improves his position at home,” according to Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
The weight loss was recently subject of North Korean state media reporting as well, which is somewhat unprecedented; however, it could be an attempt to show the “leader’s solidarity” with “sufferings of the people” during famine-like conditions currently gripping much of the country.