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North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in 2018. Photo / Getty Images
Analysts have expressed surprise at Kim Jong Un’s altered physical appearance.
The North Korean leader was the guest of honour at a military parade in the capital city Pyongyang this week.
The event included the bizarre sight of public health workers marching in gas masks and hazmat suits.
Thousands of people attended the event to mark the country’s 73rd anniversary.
Analysts were quick to note the appearance of a slimmed-down Kim Jong Un, who was seen hugging children and waving to the crowds below.
“It’s striking how much healthier Kim Jong-un is looking in these photos from yesterday,” North Korea-focused journalist and researcher Martyn Williams wrote on Twitter.
“However he is doing it – and there are theories – he looks a lot better than he did a few months ago.”
Hong Kong-based journalist Ryan Chan also chimed in, writing: “I have never seen Kim Jong-un in such a healthier body shape before.”
The North Korean leader’s health and appearance have been the focus of speculation in recent months.
According to South Korea’s national spy agency National Intelligence Service, as of November 2020, Kim weighed 136kg, which would make him severely obese.
With little independent information coming from the secretive country, rumours regularly emerge about the leader’s health.
In August this year, he was spotted with a bandage and dark mark on the back of his head.
An in-depth analysis of the leader’s $12,000 Portofino Automatic watch strap by NK News pointed out Kim had lost a significant amount of weight.
weight loss Machines not missiles
Kim, who apparently did not deliver a speech during the event, was observed kissing children who presented him with flowers and waved to the crowd before taking his spot at a balcony overlooking Kim Il Sung Square
There was a different tone at the event compared to the bombastic displays of previous years.
The “paramilitary and public security forces” event was significantly less assertive, including detachments from the railways ministry, Air Koryo and the Hungnam Fertiliser Complex, according to KCNA.
The pageant featured rifle-carrying students, personnel in gas masks and orange protective suits, and mechanised paramilitary units. None of the participants or audience wore face masks, images showed.
“The parade shows that the government felt a need to build unity domestically. The population is clearly suffering amid the pandemic and social complaints are likely building up,” Hong Min, an analyst at South Korea’s Institute for National Unification, told the New York Post.
The biggest weapons on display were small artillery pieces dragged by tractors. KCNA said they were driven by co-operative farm workers “to pound the aggressors and their vassal forces with annihilating firepower in case of emergency”.
And instead of the giant missiles — whether real or models — that are the usual climax to a military parade, the last unit to enter the square was the public security forces’ fire brigade.
Kim Jong Un, wearing a pale grey Western-style suit and matching tie, appeared before the cheering crowd as fireworks went off at midnight and “extended warm greetings to all the people of the country”, KCNA reported. It did not quote him giving a speech.