North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is seen struggling to walk down a set of stairs in a new propaganda video celebrating the country’s achievements in the last year. In the lead-up to the film’s release, there was considerable speculation regarding the young dictator’s obvious weight loss. According to Reuters and others, Kim appears to struggle to make his way down makeshift stairs at a construction site while others in his party descend normally while holding an umbrella, in the 110-minute film titled ‘The Great Year of Victory, 2021’. The Telegraph has posted the relevant scene on YouTube.
Kim, who is in his mid-30s, has previously demonstrated apparent mobility challenges. North Korea watchers have suggested Kim may have been suffering from gout, since he reportedly smokes and drinks heavily and reportedly enjoys a fairly rich diet, but it is difficult to know for sure. Kim was seen limping on state TV in the summer of 2014, and that fall he returned home with a walking cane, leading to speculation that he might have been ill.
North Korea’s propaganda film released Tuesday shows Kim riding horses and visiting facilities while displaying North Korea’s achievements during a time of hardship, namely the pandemic and the ongoing sanctions related to the country’s weapons programs. NK News reported, however, that the film also mentions Kim’s physical changes, attributing them to worry over the nation. Kim ‘showed us his fatherly side by bravely battling snow, rain, and wind as he fought to ensure that the nation and people were not forgotten,’ the narrator recounts, adding that ‘his body completely withered away, and he showed his motherly side by greatly suffering and worrying to realize the dreams of the people’.
In fall 2020, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service, its spy agency, estimated that North Korea’s leader, who is about 5 feet, 7 inches tall, weighed about 300 pounds, about 100 pounds heavier than when he took control of the country about a decade earlier. It was reported in July 2021, about a month after North Korea watchers noticed that Kim was looking lighter, that the spy agency concluded that Kim had lost anywhere between 22 and 44 pounds. The trend of weight loss continued, with the change being quite noticeable in photos. The North Korean state media even discussed weight loss.
‘Seeing respected general secretary [Kim Jong Un] looking emaciated breaks our people’s heart so much,’ a Pyongyang resident said during a Korean Central Television broadcast, Reuters reported last June. Experts worldwide are closely watching Kim’s behavior for changes, as these may be an indication of his health. His succession in the nuclear-armed state is unclear, and his health reveals a lot about the health of the regime.