His last appearance on state media is believed to have taken place on October 12 during coverage of a huge missile exhibition in Pyongyang the day before Reports emerged at the start of the month that the young leader had lost a significant amount of weight.
North Koreans have been worrying tearfully about leader Kim Jong Un’s “emaciated” condition, state media quoted a local resident as saying, in a highly unusual broadcast that provided rare acknowledgement of foreign speculation about Kim’s weight loss.
The comments – in a country where public discussion of the leader’s health and personal life is nearly always off-limits – are being seen as an effort to boost domestic support for Kim as he grapples with deepening economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sanctions imposed as a result of its nuclear programme, and natural disasters, have added to the desperate situation in the rogue nation.
Speaking on Korean State TV, an unidentified man said: “Our people’s hearts ached most when we saw Kim’s emaciated looks.”
“Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally,” added the concerned citizen.
Analysts said the remarks showed authorities were seeking to use the change in Kim’s weight to reinforce loyalty to the regime in desperate times, portraying him as a “devoted, hardworking” leader as the country struggles to tackle a food crisis and other challenges.
A recent report emerging from Pyongyang has encouraged North Korean citizens to eat “delicious” swan meat as food shortages become worse.
One defector, Ahn Chan-il who spoke of the situation said: “The message Pyongyang is sending is that Kim is a leader who works very hard for his people even to a degree he skips meals and loses weight.”
North Korea has been building up its military forces and assets to unprecedented levels over the last few months.
In a speech carried by state news at the time, Kim said he was increasing his military strength as an act of self-defence.
He claimed that Pyongyang’s weapons development was necessary in the face of hostile policies from the US and a military build-up in South Korea, according to a report by state news agency KCNA.
NK News reports that since then he has not been seen on state channels and satellite imagery has shown “increased activity” at his east coast beach house and a lakeside mansion near the capital.
The outlet says it suggests he ‘may have spent time at these spots during his current absence’. It said it was his longest absence for seven years.
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Mr Kim’s lifestyle has been heavily scrutinized since his accession to power.
The Chain-smoking, cheese-loving leader had reportedly gained a stone every year since coming into power in 2011.
His health has been heavily discussed with reports claiming he secretly attended a health retreat after aides became concerned about his heavy figure.
Yet this absence brings further speculation.
Earlier this year, rumours swirled that North Korea’s “Supreme Leader” was unwell with coronavirus, whilst other reports speculated he was close to death’s door after heart surgery.
Other reports suggested he had fled Pyongyang for a resort town because people in his inner circle had tested positive for COVID-19.
According to North Korean state media, the mysterious leader is in good health.
The public will get to see for themselves on December 17, when he is next due to appear to visit his father’s mausoleum on the anniversary of his death.