North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un appears to have lost weight, giving rise to speculation about a possible serious illness and drawing the attention of intelligence agencies.
n footage published by the state broadcaster, Mr Kim is seen wearing baggy trousers with his signature dark buttoned suit, as he reappeared for the first time in almost a month.
His luxury watch appeared to be fastened more tightly than before around a slimmer wrist.
A report by NK News, a Seoul website, said the length of the strap past the buckle on the $12,000 (€10,000) watch looked longer than in November 2020 and March 2021.
Personal details about the reclusive leader are classified, and intelligence agencies keep close watch on his weight fluctuations for any signs of illness that could bring about a sudden change in leadership or instability in a country developing nuclear weapons.
Mr Kim, a heavy smoker and drinker fond of culinary delicacies, previously piled on the pounds. According to South’s Korea’s National Intelligence Service, he weighed 90kg in 2012 but 140kg by 2020.
His public absence has been known to prompt rumours of his death, even though he is still in his thirties.
In 2014, he disappeared for six weeks before being seen limping with a cane.
Last year, there was speculation Mr Kim was seriously ill amid reports that Washington was monitoring intelligence he was in “grave danger” after undergoing surgery.
It was not clear from the website’s report if Mr Kim’s altered appearance was the result of illness or a conscious decision to lose weight.
Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said that if he had lost weight intentionally, it “improves his position at home”.
“If [the sudden weight loss] is due to a health condition, though,” he added, “the jockeying for his succession may already be happening behind the scenes.” (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)