Kim Jong Un prompts health speculation as experts declare: ‘doesn’t look like a healthy man’

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has raised another round of speculation about his health following publication of photos from his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

“I don’t know what the severity of his health is like, but, just by looking at it on the TV screens, [he] doesn’t look like a healthy man,” Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, fellow at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and author of “The Sister: North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong, the Most Dangerous Woman in the World,” told Fox News Digital. “But it’s been like that for, you know, almost 10 years now.”

Former CIA North Korea analyst Sue Mi Terry aroused speculation when she said, based on footage of his meeting with Putin in Pyongyang, that Kim “doesn’t look too good to me.” 

“There was a time when he lost a little weight, and he looked better, so my initial reaction was that he didn’t look, in terms of being healthy, because his health is something that we always track anyway,” Terry said according to The Hill. 

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Lee agreed with Terry’s assessment, describing part of the meeting when Kim first arrived at the meeting in his limousine and walked “no more than 30 yards” before getting on an escalator. With that minor exertion, “you could see Kim Jong Un huffing and puffing, and you could audibly hear it: [He was] breathing hard like that after walking 25, 30 yards, and even when the two sat down, he was still out of breath,” Lee said. 

Military North Korea

However, Lee cautioned that Kim has long appeared unhealthy, looking “morbidly obese” for much of his tenure as the supreme leader of the hermit kingdom and that even if he appears incredibly unhealthy again following his weight loss in 2021, he could still live well thanks to the healthcare at his disposal. 

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“Kim is filthy rich: He owns an entire state – it’s his domain in a medieval style, absolute monarch … he has the finest medical team, first-rate, although the healthcare system throughout the nation is dilapidated,” Lee explained. “It’s a joke, but he has good doctors working for him, and their raison d’etre is to make sure that Kim doesn’t collapse the next day.” 

Lee noted that both Kim’s father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Sung Il, respectively, died from heart attacks, and he talked at length about Kim’s many vices, such as heavy drinking and smoking. 

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, waves from a balcony toward the assembled troops and spectators during a celebration of the nation’s 73rd anniversary at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021.

A 2016 report from The Guardian noted that Kim had gained 90 pounds in the four years since he took over following his father’s death due to “binges” of food and alcohol to cope with “constant fear of being assassinated.” The report cited South Korea’s intelligence service, which claimed that Kim weighed 286 pounds at the time. 

“Kim also apparently suffered gout in Oct. 2014,” Lee revealed. “He was not seen in public from mid-September to about mid-October and then showed up with a cane.”

Kim’s health will also remain vitally important to Putin, who increasingly relies on weapons from his allies as the war in Ukraine depletes both sides. Reports indicate that North Korea could have sent as many as 5 million artillery shells to Russia, based on the size of containers shipped last week. 

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“Kim knows that he has some leverage now with Putin and for Putin to make this on this pilgrimage, this unusual visit to North Korea,” Lee argued. “[It] says a lot about how the two sides are joined together in rewriting international law, international norms, violating sanctions – brazenly denying any military collusion.”

“The two men signal to Washington and other allies that, hey, you do your best to derail our partnership: We’re standing tall together,” Lee concluded.

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