- Kim Jong Un has been losing weight, and now we have an idea of just how much.
- South Korea’s spy agency believes Kim has lost as much as 44 pounds.
- Kim’s health and weight are of interest to intelligence agencies because they speak to the regime’s health.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lost a lot of weight, possibly more than 40 pounds, according to South Korea’s spy agency.
The National Intelligence Service believes Kim has lost 10 to 20 kg (22 to 44 pounds), a South Korean lawmaker briefed by the agency told reporters Thursday, Bloomberg reported.
The intelligence agency said in November that Kim weighed just over 300 pounds. When the young dictator took power about a decade ago, the NIS estimated that he weighed just under 200 pounds.
-Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams) February 12, 2021
Kim is said to be about 5 foot 7 inches tall, so at more than 300 pounds, the North Korean leader, who is said to be in his mid-30s, would be considered severely obese and potentially at risk for a variety of health problems. The risk is higher given his affinity for chain smoking and heavy drinking, not to mention the high stress of running a brutal regime facing significant international pressure for its illegal weapons programs and human rights abuses.
In the 2019 book “The Great Successor: The Secret Rise and Rule of Kim Jong Un,” seasoned reporter and North Korea expert Ana Fifield described the young leader as looking “like a heart attack waiting to happen.”
But after a decade of substantial weight gain, his weight now appears to be dropping.
Insider, citing an NK News analysis, reported in June that Kim appeared to be losing weight. In photos, his face looked smaller, his clothes fit looser, and he was clearly able to cinch his $12,000 Portofino Automatic watch made by IWC Schaffhausen much tighter on his wrist.
A few weeks later, North Korean state media reported that some in North Korea were concerned about Kim’s 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. “Everyone is saying their tears welled up.”
Although it is possible that a noticeably slimmer Kim could be the result of an illness, the South Korean lawmaker who discussed the intelligence community’s view of the situation said there do not appear to be any health abnormalities, Bloomberg reported.
Specifically, there is nothing strange about how he walks, nor has he stopped holding “hours-long meetings,” the lawmaker said.
Kim’s health, his weight included, gets a lot of scrutiny from the intelligence community because it offers insight into the health and stability of the North Korean regime, especially considering the uncertainty surrounding succession if the regime’s third leader dies young.
“Succession is very unclear if something were to happen to Kim Jong Un,” Sue Mi Terry, a North Korea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, previously told Insider. “We know he’s unhealthy. So we need to care” about his weight gain, loss, and overall health.
Terry said that leadership health is probably “one of the most important indicators” of regime stability. For North Korea, she said, “Kim Jong Un’s health is the biggest wild card.”