North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's apparent weight loss prompts speculation over health

Kim Jong-un
Kim Jong-un Photo credit: Reuters

Recent photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un suggest he's lost a considerable amount of weight, prompting speculation about his health.

South Korea's Yonhap news agency said Kim, who is believed to be 37, looked noticeably slimmer in new images released by state media.

NK News then analysed photos of Kim addressing a meeting late last week, which was his first public appearance for a month, and said he appeared to have lost a "significant amount of weight".

The outlet enlarged photos of Kim that suggest he's tightened the strap on his signature watch. The images appear to show his left wrist is considerably slimmer compared to similar photos taken in November 2020 and March this year.

It's unknown whether Kim's new appearance is a result of illness or a decision to lose weight.

South Korea's National Intelligence Service said in November that Kim weighed about 140kg and had gained about 6-7kg each year since weighing 90kg in 2011, when he first came into power.

Kim Jong-un at meetings on December 30, 2020 (left) and June 5, 2021 (right).
Kim Jong-un at meetings on December 30, 2020 (left) and June 5, 2021 (right). Photo credit: KCTV / NK News

Mike Brodka, an intelligence officer for US Special Operations Command in South Korea, told NK News there are a range of outcomes analysts may consider when watching the North Korean leader's health.

"It may be a simple matter of a healthy lifestyle change or a more complex issue. Right now we do not know, but it raises enough serious questions that we must pay attention to events over the next couple of months to find out."

Another analyst believes if Kim lost the weight intentionally, it may improve his standing at home given the country is facing food shortages and an economic crisis.

Kim's health has been a source of speculation before. In 2014, he wasn't seen for six weeks before reappearing with a walking stick, with South Korea's spy agency claiming he'd undergone surgery to remove a cyst from his ankle.

A three-week absence last year sparked rumours he'd fallen gravely ill, with some believing he'd even died, although he emerged appearing to be in good health.