This week, a North Korean state-run television station reported that Kim Jong-un, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, is not feeling well.
Furthermore, though political life revolves around Kim, he has not been seen at recent high-level governmental meetings, and nobody knows why.
According to the New York Times , a recent documentary broadcast on North Korea’s Central TV showed Kim walking with a limp while visiting a factory last month in Nampo, a provincial town southwest of the nation’s capital.
A narrator praised Kim, stating, “…our marshal, who lights the path of leadership for the people like a flame, although he was not feeling well.” Supposedly, it is so rare for North Korea’s media to address the physical condition of their leader that the documentary broadcast was picked up by the South Korean news media on Friday.
Additionally, this past Thursday, televised footage of the reopening of North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly did not reveal Kim to be at the meeting.
The Washington Post reports that South Korean officials tasked with keeping tabs on the North believe it is the first time Kim has missed a meeting at Pyongyang’s parliament since his father died in December 2011.
It is not unusual for senior North Korean leaders to disappear from public view for weeks at a stretch, but prolonged absences such as these are quick to catch the attention of outside analysts, who are busy looking for signs of a political purge or any other trouble within the leadership.
So far, it has been speculated that Kim’s absence have to do with his suffering from gout or arthritis in addition to his obesity.
Kim was already overweight when he overtook his father’s post, but has since gained weight and may be suffering ill health as a result.
However, security could also be a factor.
Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor from Tokyo’s Waseda University, stated , “Another reason why Kim may be reluctant to appear in public is the ongoing power struggle inside the North Korean military, which means that the situation in Pyongyang is still unstable.” A spokeswoman from South Korea’s Ministry of National Unification has reported that the government is closely following any news on the leader’s health.