Kim Jong-un health: ‘Peaky’ leader may be ill amid ‘problematic lifestyle’, warns expert

Kim Jong-un: Doctor's take on weight loss revealed by reporter

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However, while Professor James Hoare acknowledged the slimmed-down Kim increasingly looked like father Kim Jong-il in his latter years, he stressed it was entirely possible he had shed the pounds as a result of rigorous dieting, as opposed to illness. Recent photographs of Kim have allegedly triggered concerns in the Hermit State, with one member of the public claiming to be upset by his “emaciated” appearance.

Prof Hoare, a research associate with the Japan and Korea Section at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), told Express.co.uk: “It’s hard to know what it all means.

“I think one can pretty much take the story of people in tears over KJU weight loss with a large dose of salt designed to show the people’s love of the leader.

“I am also pretty sceptical about long-range diagnosis.

“Both his father and grandfather were said to be dying for years before they did, which I suppose is true of all of us!”

Prof Hoare noted the similarity between Kim Jong-un and Kim Jong-il, whom he succeeded after the latter’s death in 2011, and admitted he looked “peaky”.

He added: “He has led a problematic lifestyle and it shows.

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“But while he may have lost weight through illness, I think it might also be through dieting.

“But I am no medical doctor and avoid speculation on this issue.”

In an interview aired by state broadcaster KRT last Friday, the unnamed man said: “Seeing respected general secretary Kim Jong-un looking emaciated breaks our people’s heart so much.

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“Everyone is saying that their tears welled up.”

In the clip, which has not been independently verified, shows Pyongyang residents watching a large screen on the street showing Kim and party officials attending a concert after a plenary meeting of their Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK).

Kwak Gil Seob, who heads One Korea Center, a website that specialises in North Korea news, told the BBC Kim’s regime “would never allow negative news around Kim Jong-un to be published”.

Therefore he said the clip had been screened “to show that Kim Jong-un is losing weight by himself”.

Speculation about Kim’s health spread like wildfire last year after he disappeared from public view for more than a fortnight, triggering claims that he was in a vegetative state or even dead as a result of botched heart surgery.

Kim, who is believed to be 37, is widely understood to have led an extravagant lifestyle, and at one stage is estimated to have tipped the scales at almost 300 lbs, with given his height of 5ft 4 inches, would have given him a dangerously high BMI of 51.2.

In the meantime, North Korea has other problems to contend with.

Speaking last month, Kim acknowledged the country was facing possible famine, telling state media: “The people’s food situation is now getting tense.”

And in remarks also reported by KNCA earlier this week, he accused party officials of negligence in what observers have interpreted as a tacit acknowledgement of the impact COVID-19 is having on his country.

Officially the Hermit State has no cases – but Kim berated senior party leaders who he said had “caused a grave incident that has caused a great risk to people and the nation’s safety”, without offering further details.

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