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Fresh photos of a slimmed-down Kim Jong Un are giving recent rumors about the North Korean despot’s health more weight — as watchers wonder what has caused the sudden change.
New images of the famously reclusive and rotund leader, made public on Wednesday, appear to confirm he has lost a large amount of weight.
The 37-year-old Kim has a noticeably thinner face and the band on his luxury watch is tighter. Some observers estimate that he may have lost up to 44 pounds.
Kim, who is 5-feet-8, previously weighed 308 pounds.
The photos of the North Korean leader, taken at a Workers’ Party meeting on Tuesday in Pyongyang, come after state media released photos of a trimmed-down Kim Saturday — the first time he was seen publicly for a month.
Rumors quickly began to swirl about the apparent weight loss, with some watchers speculating it could be a sign of deteriorating health.
Kim, known for heavy drinking and smoking, already comes from a family with a history of heart problems. His father and grandfather both died of heart issues.
There has also been speculation that he suffers from diabetes and high-blood pressure.
However, a senior analyst at Seoul’s Korea Institute for National Unification said the weight drop could actually be an attempt to improve his health.
“If he was experiencing health problems, he wouldn’t have come out in public to convene the plenary meeting of the Workers’ Party’s Central Committee,” Hong Min told the Associated Press. The meeting is a major political conference that is expected to last two to three days.
On the other hand, Seo Yu-Seok at the Seoul-based Institute of North Korean Studies said the recently-created position of a first secretary in the Workers’ Party could be a sign of Kim’s ailing health.
Seo said Kim may have given his blessing to create the post — which has become the country’s No. 2 job — at the urging of top officials, but he is still yet to appoint out of fear it could loosen his grip on power.
“If Kim faces a real health problem and is in a condition in which he can’t express his opinions, though he isn’t dead, who will make a decision to name the first secretary?” Seo said.
Last April, Kim missed the birthday celebration for his grandfather, the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung, and his absence launched a number of theories about his health, including that he died while undergoing surgery.
With Post wires
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