Kim Jong-un launches crackdown on gossip about North Korean dictator’s weight
Kim Jong-un has launched a crackdown on gossip about his weight, it has been reported.
The North Korean dictator recently returned to public view after a month away looking noticeably thinner.
It sparked wild speculation about the health of the despot, while some commentators believe the state released the images as propaganda to show the leader is suffering food shortages together with the rest of the nation.
North Korea is facing its worst famine in almost 30 years and experts believe the leader was trying to show solidarity with his people.
While the cause of Kim's apparent weight loss remains unknown, talking about his health is considered treason in North Korea.
Authorities are now launching an investigation to stop rumours from spreading.
The investigation will target everyone from officials to residents and will extend across the hermit state.
The people of North Korea are said to be concerned by Kim's appearance, with it remaining unclear whether it is due to illness or whether he has made a concerted effort to shed some timber.
In a rare acknowledgement of the public's concerns, North Korean state TV quoted a resident as saying: "Our people's hearts ached most when we saw Kim's emaciated look.
"Everyone says their tears are welling up in their eyes naturally."
Now it appears that residents must be careful what they say in public about their leader's appearance with even the slightest comment potentially leading to someone's arrest.
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A resident from the north-western province of North Pyongan told RFA's Korean Service: "I was informed that the Ministry of State Security issued an order to each region's State Security Department last week to secretly investigate rumours related to the health of the Highest Dignity.
“There is a rumour spreading around that the Highest Dignity has health problems, and the State Security Department is trying to find out the source of the rumour.
“In fact, some residents, as well as government officials, are saying these days that the highest dignity is still young, but he will not live long due to various diseases including high blood pressure."
There is still some scepticism about whether Kim is suffering from illness.
Ken Gause, of the think tank CNA, told RFA: "I think the North Korea regime understands that, in a country where there are pockets of people starving, to have a very overweight Supreme Leader is just not a good image.
"And I think by showing that he's lost a little weight, that can really kind of go along with the narrative that he's working very hard for the people and everybody's suffering including him."
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