The 37-year-old leader, once overweight and reportedly an alcoholic, has been the subject of regular health speculation given his family’s history of heart disease. The leader’s father Kim Jong-il and his grandfather both died of heart issues.
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un took centre stage at a military dogs parade, his first public appearance in some time revealing a remarkable weight loss and tanned look.
Pictures from the event were released through North Korean state media late on Thursday, with the reports saying it took place on Wednesday evening. The images showed the leader wearing a cream-coloured suit, a silver tie and sporting a haircut reminiscent of his grandfather, the country’s founder Kim Il-sung.
As the clock struck midnight, Mr Kim emerged to applause from the crowd at Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square, state media reported.
Although he did not speak at the event, he was seen enjoying the parade with a big smile and gave a thumbs up to the performers. He kissed children who presented him with flowers and applauded the parade marchers throughout the event.
He is said to have lost at least 20 kg over the past few months, with his weight loss first catching the public eye when he made an appearance after several weeks to convene a ruling party meeting in June. Following this appearance, state media claimed that citizens broke down in tears after seeing a thinner Mr Kim.
North Korea is grappling with a severe food shortage due to weeks of drought followed by a heavy monsoon last year. The communist leader is also struggling to build an economy hit by United States sanctions over nuclear weapons.
“He’s also a husband and a father of three children who is approaching his 40s, so it isn’t strange that he would care about his health,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul told the Associated Press, adding that he is likely trying to project an image of a “normal statesman”.
His new image took social media by storm, with online commentators having a field day. “Kim Jon-un discovered keto and free weights,” wrote one user on Twitter.
“Okay, first Donald Trump now Kim Jon-un?! What is this miracle drug or who is this surgeon,” asked another.
Meanwhile, Mr Kim has been summoned by a Japanese court in an ongoing lawsuit against Pyongyang on allegations of human rights abuse of ethnic Korean residents. Over 93,000 Koreans had moved from Japan to North Korea between 1959 and 1984 under the country’s resettlement programme that was described as “paradise on Earth”.
The plaintiffs are now demanding compensation of £658,000 each for the human rights abuses they suffered in the country. Mr Kim is not expected to attend the court summons.