Reclusive North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's photographs revealing an apparent weight loss have triggered yet another round of speculations about his health.
Kim's health ha always been a matter of intense speculation, and there were even death rumors two years ago following an extended absence from public life.
The North Korea dictator had appeared vastly thin in photographs released by state media on Saturday. The photographs are from his only public appearance in a month, in which he addressed a ruling party politburo meeting.
Loses Significant Amount of Weight
According to NK News, which analyzed photos of Kim, Kim had lost a "significant amount of weight".
The publication, which analyzed the image, also said that Kim had tightened the strap on his favorite watch. The website said Kin's his left wrist appeared much thinner compared with photos taken in November 2020 and March.
Interestingly, this time around it is Kim's weight loss, not weight gain, that has become the matter of speculation. The North Korean leader, a heavy smoker with reportedly poor eating habits, weighed around 140 kgs the South Korean National Intelligence Service had reported recently. The agency also concluded Kim "gained an average of 6 to 7 kilograms per year," since coming to power in late 2011.
With Kim's health becoming a hot topic, geopolitical analysts turn the spotlight to North Korean succession plan, or the lack of it, and the consequences of a sudden death of the ruler. "If (the sudden weight loss)] is due to a health condition though, the jockeying for his succession may already be happening behind the scenes, and that volatility could be trouble for the outside world" said Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT, according to Australia's News.com.
One analyst told NK News the leader may have decided to lose weight to improve his standing at home. The country is battling food shortages and an economic crisis triggered by a dramatic fall in trade with China during the coronavirus pandemic, a series of natural disasters and international sanctions imposed in response to the regime's nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
There are other analysts, however, who rather think that Kim may have adopted a more healthy lifestyle in recent times and reduced weight, which is a positive for him personally.
Last year, speculation over Kim's health got so bad that North Korea watchers concluded that he had actually died after a botched heart surgery.