North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has reappeared in public on Saturday, June 5, looking like he has shed some weight.
Kim's weight closely watched by foreign observers
Following his reappearance after almost a month of absence from the public eye, North Korean watchers pointed out that the 37-year-old appeared to have lost a good deal of weight, NK News reported.
Kim Jong Un walking into the politburo meeting, from KCTV June 5. Also some hummingbird applause on the left there pic.twitter.com/Cpbum5Txgs— Colin Zwirko (@ColinZwirko) June 5, 2021
NK News had come to the conjecture after comparing state media images of his US$12,000 (S$15,886) IWC Portofino Automatic luxury watch.
While the watch appeared to be rather snug around his left wrist back in November 2020, with a shorter strap past the buckle, it seemed to be fastened more tightly on June 5, indicating a slimmer wrist.
Kim's weight is closely monitored by foreign intelligence agencies as it's an indicator for his health. His family has a history of heart disease.
Whether his weight loss is intentional can provide clues to his political position and the stability of the Kim regime in the isolated and highly secretive country.
Previously, speculations about his health, including rumours that he was dead, made global headlines when he was first observed to have missed the anniversary honouring the birth of the country's founder on April 15.
Kim's health a indicator of regime stability
Colin Zwirko, an analyst for NK News, said foreign intelligence wants to know if Kim is healthy enough to remain as leader for a long time, as well as what's going in "behind the scenes" if he's unhealthy, Bloomberg reported.
Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), said if his weight loss is deliberate, it "likely improves his position at home", which will in turn provide greater certainty for South Korea, Japan and the U.S. that his hold over the country is still going strong.
However, if his weight loss is due to ill health, it conveys a different story as it will mean that the fight for his succession may already be taking place, he said, adding that the unpredictability could spell "trouble for the outside world".
Top image adapted via Getty Images & Korean Central News Agency