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North Koreans are heartbroken by leader Kim Jong Un’s “emaciated looks” after his apparent weight loss, a Pyongyang resident told state media — in a rare acknowledgment of foreign speculation about the despot’s image.
“Our people’s hearts ached most when we saw (Kim’s) emaciated looks,” the unidentified man told KCTV, the state-run television network. “Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally.”
Recent images of the famously reclusive and rotund leader appeared to show that the 37-year-old has lost a large amount of weight, sparking renewed speculation about his health.
The 5-foot-4 leader’s face was noticeably thinner and the band on his luxury watch is tighter. Some observers estimate he may have lost up to 44 pounds. He previously weighed 308 pounds.
Kim’s health is the focus of considerable global attention as he hasn’t publicly anointed a successor who would take charge of the Hermit Kingdom’s advancing nuclear arsenal targeting the US and its allies if he is incapacitated.
Some analysts in South Korea have said Kim — who is known for heavy drinking and smoking — likely went on a diet to improve his health, while others speculated that his weight loss might be related to health issues.
In the clip of the interview, Pyongyang residents were seen watching a big screen on the street showing a concert attended by Kim and party officials after a plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party of Korea.
Some experts said the man’s comments were part of an effort to boost domestic support for Kim’s efforts as he grapples with deepening economic hardships caused by the pandemic, mismanagement, sanctions and natural disasters.
Cheong Seong-chang, a North Korea expert at the Sejong Institute near Seoul, told CNN that it was possible Pyongyang chose to publicly acknowledge Kim’s apparent weight loss to “say that this is not a big deal.”
But Cheong said the rogue regime’s propagandists also may be trying to frame Kim’s condition as a product of his efforts to improve life inside a country that’s reportedly struggling to feed its population.
“North Korea could be trying to sell people on the idea that Kim Jong Un is losing weight because he is overworking himself to make people’s lives better in North Korea,” Cheong told the network.
With Post wires
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