Kim Jong Un Lost Some Weight—and North Koreans Are Alarmed
Pyongyang watchers don’t suspect a health scare, but the implication is that the leader is belt-tightening alongside his citizens who face food shortages
SEOUL—Kim Jong Un has shed some weight. Much of North Korea is now in tears.
Photographed recently at Workers’ Party meetings, Mr. Kim looks slimmer, prompting the regime’s carefully choreographed state media to run interviews with ordinary North Korean citizens. They voiced concerns about the country’s leader held across the impoverished nation.
“We were most heartbroken when we saw our dear General Secretary had become emaciated,” said a middle-aged North Korea man, wearing a straw hat and referring to one of Mr. Kim’s official titles. “Tears came out naturally.”
No topic inside highly censored North Korea is more verboten than the health of the ruling Kim leader. South Korean officials have recently said they noticed no significant change to Mr. Kim’s health. Those remarks followed a November spy-agency assessment that the dictator, despite chronic smoking and obesity, appeared to be fine.
But Pyongyang watchers sense Mr. Kim’s skimpier figure has potential political undertones, providing stark imagery that the Supreme Leader is suffering alongside his citizens who face food shortages and an economic crisis. Mr. Kim recently acknowledged North Korea’s food situation, and he urged the country’s leaders to resolve shortages resulting from lower agricultural output, which he attributed largely to crop failures caused by last summer’s typhoons.