Heartbroken North Koreans have been worrying tearfully about leader Kim Jong Un's "emaciated looks," state media quoted a local resident as saying, in a rare acknowledgement of foreign speculation about his weight loss. Some experts say the comments were seen as an effort to boost domestic support for Kim's efforts as he grapples with deepening economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, mismanagement, UN economic sanctions, and natural disasters, per the AP. "Our people's hearts ached most when we saw [Kim's] emaciated looks," North Korean state TV cited the unidentified male resident as saying on Friday. "Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally." In recent state media photos, Kim has appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight. Some North Korea watchers say Kim, who's about 5 feet, 8 inches tall and has previously weighed 308 pounds, may have lost 22 to 44 pounds.
Kim's health is the focus of keen outside attention, as the 37-year-old leader hasn't publicly anointed a successor who would take charge of North Korea's advancing nuclear arsenal targeting the United States and its allies if he's incapacitated. Some analysts in Seoul say Kim is likely to have gone on a diet to improve his health, while others speculate that his weight loss might be related to health issues. Kim, known for heavy drinking and smoking, comes from a family with a history of heart problems. His father and grandfather, who ruled North Korea before him, both died of heart issues. In recent months, Kim has called for stronger unity to overcome what he calls "the worst-ever" crisis caused by pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced North Korea's international trade, persistent US-led sanctions, and crop-killing summer storms last year.
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