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VIDEO: North Korean leader Kim ’emaciated’ body Keeps citizens talking: state TV

Pyongyang citizen says whole country ‘heartbroken’ at sight of suddenly thinner DPRK leader

North Koreans are collectively “heartbroken” by Kim Jong Un’s sudden recent weight loss, according to a Pyongyang citizen who spoke to the carefully controlled state television network on Friday, a rare official acknowledgment of domestic concerns over Kim’s health.

“Seeing our respected comrade General Secretary [Kim Jong Un] become emaciated like that, all the people became so heartbroken,” said a middle-aged man in an interview aired Friday evening.

“Everyone is talking about it. We all just started to cry,” the man added. Korean Central Television (KCTV) aired the interview in a program on reactions from around the country to new propaganda songs released this week glorifying Kim and the ruling party.

At the same time Kim’s health has long been closely watched internationally as his sudden death would raise questions over succession and stability.

Known as a heavy smoker, the leader has long been obese, with his weight appearing to increase steadily in recent years.

But he looked noticeably less overweight in recent media images published by Pyongyang’s official KCNA news agency and on state television.

Kim’s personal life is normally taboo for North Korea’s state media — Pyongyang has never confirmed how many children he has — but KCTV last week aired a clip of an unnamed resident of the capital claiming everyone in the country was “heartbroken” by his “emaciated” condition.

“Seeing our respected general secretary looking emaciated breaks our people’s hearts the most,” he said.

“Everyone is talking about how their tears welled up immediately.”

Analysts say Pyongyang is using Kim’s appearance as a way to glorify him by portraying him as a “devoted, hardworking” leader as the country struggles to tackle its food crisis and other challenges.

The North Korean leader reappeared after a monthlong break from public view in early June looking significantly thinner, but the Pyongyang citizen’s comments on state TV are the first official acknowledgment out of North Korea of Kim’s weight loss.

It is uncommon for state media to speak openly about the leader’s health, but it is also not unheard of. For example, after his longest-ever disappearance from public activities in 2014, Kim appeared in a KCTV documentary limping along with sad music while a crying narrator said Kim was recently “not feeling well.”

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Meanwhile, a female farmer in an interview during the same program Friday thanked Kim Jong Un for signing a “special order” during the recent party plenum. KCTV earlier revealed that Kim had made the order to solve an ongoing nationwide “food crisis,” but state media has largely omitted details of the crisis since revealing this information.

Shut borders

It shut its borders in January last year to protect itself against the pandemic, and as a result trade with Beijing — its economic lifeline — has slowed to a trickle while all international aid workers have left the country.

“The message Pyongyang is sending is that Kim is a leader who works very hard for his people even to a degree he skips meals and loses weight,” defector-turned-researcher Ahn Chan-il told AFP.

Global speculation about Kim’s health flared last year after he missed the commemoration of the birthday of his late grandfather, and was absent from public view for about 20 days.

Kim’s father Kim Jong-il and grandfather Kim Il-sung were also obese and heavy smokers. Both died of heart attacks.

In 2016, South Korea’s spy agency reported Kim had bulked up to 130 kilogrammes, having piled on around 40 kilos (90 pounds) since taking power in 2011, “bingeing on food and drink”.

Last year it estimated he had put on another 10 kilogrammes, taking him to around 140 kilogrammes.

But Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies, pointed out it was unlikely his recent weight loss was a symptom of acute ill health, as he had attended several public events this month.

“No one can really know why he lost weight,” he told AFP.

“What’s clear — from the KCTV footage — is the regime wants the world to think that its people love and care for their leader, to a point where they’d cry over his thinner appearance.”

 

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