North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un Appears to Have Gained Weight (Again)

The Supreme Leader comes from a family with a history of heart disease.
Junhyup Kwon
Seoul, KR
November 5, 2020, 10:51am
North Korea Kim Jong Un Weight
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Oct. 14, 2020 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (L) inspecting the rehabilitation site in the Komdok area of South Hamgyong Province, which was damaged by the typhoon. Photo: KCNA VIA KNS / AFP

Following developments in North Korea’s secretive power structure is always a challenge but experts have noticed a more obvious change lately: Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un has gained weight. 

The 36-year-old has put on 13 or 15 pounds every year since he took power in 2011 and now weighs 308 pounds, South Korea’s spy agency said on Tuesday. It is unclear how they reached such a precise assessment.


Kim weighed 198 pounds in August of 2012 but has gained 13 or 15 pounds per year over the last eight years, according to the National Intelligence Service.

Any development related to Kim’s health is closely followed in the South, which is technically still at war with North Korea. In 2014, Kim was not able to walk normally and was treated for tarsal tunnel syndrome which affects the toes, ankles and feet, the South’s spy agency said at the time.

In 2016, the agency said that Kim ballooned in weight because of great stress due brought on by security concerns and a “lack of sleep, excessive binge eating, and drinking.”

His lifestyle is in stark contrast to most of the North Korean population, who face constant problems of hunger and malnutrition.

Commenting again on the health factor this week, the agency said that obesity is not a massive issue for Kim since he is still young.

Doctor Yoo Young-hoon told VICE News that going by the Body Mass Index (BMI), Kim belongs in the severely obese category.

“People in this phase will be more likely to have metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, hyperlipidemia, etc but there is a limit to what we can know only with his weight,” the doctor said.

Doctor and professor Kim Kyung-soo told VICE News: “Kim will be more likely to have cardiovascular disease…sleep apnea syndrome, gallstones, arthritis, and complications of obesity.”

In addition to weight, his heavy smoking habit and a long family history of heart trouble have continued to fuel speculation over his health.

Both his father Kim Jong Il and grandfather Kim Il Sung reportedly died of heart attacks in 2011 and 1994 respectively.

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