Weight loss may indicate supreme leader seeking new image as country suffers from Covid, famine, sanctions

Is North Korea’s leader working out? At an unusual North Korean parade showcasing military dogs and virus workers in orange hazmat suits, Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un stood out by looking thinner and more energetic than he has in years, the Associated Press reported.

Kim’s weight loss became noticeable in June, when he made his first public appearance in weeks to convene a ruling party meeting. Some North Korea watchers then said that Kim, who is about 170 centimeters (5 feet, 8 inches) tall and has previously weighed 140 kilograms (308 pounds), may have lost 10-20 kilograms (22-44 pounds).

It has become crucial for Kim to build an image as a young and vigorous leader who can steer the country out of trouble, said Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korea studies at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University. Such image-making efforts would align with the latest parade, which showcased civil defense units involved in efforts to rebuild the economy and communities destroyed by floods and emphasized a domestic message for unity.

 

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