Is North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s recent weight loss a symptom of a health problem, a symbolism of the “hard times” his country going through, or simply a publicity stunt?
FOLLOWING international concerns about a looming mass starvation in North Korea over food shortages, state media claims its supreme leader Kim Jong-Un had lost weight in an attempt to present a hardworking version of the dictator and boost public support.
Normally, topics related to the personal life or health of the 37-year-old leader is strictly restricted, but due to the deteriorating economic performance of the reclusive state caused by the pandemic and other pressing issues affecting public opinion, the regime needed to improvise.
“Our people’s hearts ached most when we saw [Kim’s] emaciated looks,” North Korean state TV quoted an unidentified man on Friday (June 25). “Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally.”
According to latest reports and observers, Kim may have lost 10 to 20 kilograms in recent times, but looking closely on his body mass index, the dictator is relatively heavier and undeniably obese than most North Korean people.
However, it is still unclear if the 3rd generation leader lost weight due to an underlying illness or simply because he chose to work out.
Additionally, others point out the intentions as to why something as sensitive and crucial like the health of their head of state was broadcast publicly, bearing in mind the political implications of such announcement.
“It is a little strange that they would show him in such ill-fitting clothes, as the optics do seem to emphasize his weight loss,” said Jenny Town, director of 38 North project, an organization which monitors the rogue state.
“It is a major weight loss, and his health is important to the functioning and fate of the state, which is why people are watching this closely,” mentioning the unusual choice of North Korean authorities on reporting his weight loss.
Last year, news broke out about the alleged heart failure of Kim after being absent from the public eye for quite some time.
His health had always been a major talking point for many, considering he has an unhealthy lifestyle including heavy smoking and both his father and grandfather before him were overweight and died of heart attack.
No cause for concern
For analysts, Kim’s weight loss is nothing more than a propaganda aimed to reinforce loyalty to the leadership especially that the country is struggling to put food on the table.
A former defector who now works as a researcher said that “the message Pyongyang is sending is that Kim is a leader who works very hard for his people even to a degree he skips meals and loses weight”.
Meanwhile, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies remarked that Kim’s weight loss was not because of a deteriorating health since the dictator can still be spotted attending public events this June.
“No one can really know why he lost weight,” professor Yang Moo-jin said. “What’s clear – from the KCTV footage – is the regime wants the world to think that its people love and care for their leader, to a point where they’d cry over his thinner appearance”.
Back in January, North Korea was forced to close its borders with China as a protection from the coronavirus disease.
This moved paralyzed trade with its biggest economic partner, resulting in the severe food shortage never seen in years. (JT)
Tags: #NorthKorea, #KimJongUn