Kim Jong Un’s Health Sparks Speculation After Meeting with Putin

Recent photos of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin have sparked fresh speculation about his health.

“I don’t know the severity of his health, but based on what we’ve seen, he doesn’t look like a healthy man,” said Professor Sung-Yoon Lee, a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C., and author of “The Sister: North Korea’s Kim Yo Jong, the Most Dangerous Woman in the World.” “This has been a concern for almost a decade now.”

Former CIA North Korea analyst Sue Mi Terry also expressed concern about Kim’s appearance during the meeting in Pyongyang. “He doesn’t look too good to me,” she said, noting that while he had lost weight at one point, he didn’t seem healthy in the recent footage.

Lee agreed with Terry’s assessment, pointing to an incident where Kim, upon arriving at the meeting in his limousine, walked only “30 yards” before using an escalator. “You could see Kim Jong Un huffing and puffing, and you could audibly hear it: [He was] breathing hard like that after walking 25, 30 yards, and even when the two sat down, he was still out of breath,” Lee said.

However, Lee cautioned that Kim has long appeared unhealthy, often looking “morbidly obese” throughout his time as leader of North Korea. He emphasized that even if Kim appears to be in poor health, he could still live a long life due to the high-quality medical care available to him.

“Kim is incredibly wealthy: He owns an entire state – it’s his domain like a medieval monarch … he has the best medical team, first-rate, even though the healthcare system throughout the nation is in bad shape,” Lee explained. “It’s a joke, but he has good doctors working for him, and their job is to make sure that Kim doesn’t collapse the next day.”

Lee noted that Kim’s father and grandfather, Kim Jong Il and Kim Sung Il, respectively, suffered health problems related to their lifestyle choices, and he spoke about Kim’s own vices, such as heavy drinking and smoking.

A 2016 report from the *Daily Mail* noted that Kim had gained 90 pounds in the four years since taking over after his father’s death, attributing this to “binges” of food and alcohol to cope with “constant fear of being assassinated.” The report cited South Korea’s intelligence service, which claimed that Kim weighed 286 pounds at the time.

“Kim also apparently suffered gout in Oct. 2014,” Lee revealed. “He was not seen in public from mid-September to about mid-October and then showed up with a cane.”

Kim’s health is also a significant concern for Putin, who is increasingly reliant on weapons from his allies as the war in Ukraine depletes resources on both sides. Reports suggest that North Korea may have sent as many as 5 million artillery shells to Russia, based on the size of containers shipped last week.

“Kim knows that he has some leverage now with Putin and for Putin to make this pilgrimage, this unusual visit to North Korea,” Lee argued. “[It] says a lot about how the two sides are joined together in rewriting international law, international norms, violating sanctions – brazenly denying any military collusion.”

“The two men signal to Washington and other allies that, hey, you do your best to derail our partnership: We’re standing tall together,” Lee concluded.