Kim Jong Un's absence from public appearances fuels health rumours

The absence of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from public appearances has led to intense media speculations related to his health.

Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014, 21:03 PM IST

Seoul: The absence of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un from public appearances has led to intense media speculations related to his health.

An official documentary stating his “discomfort” further fueled the speculations about the possible causes that could be affecting his health.

The recent health speculation started when Kim, always a large man, began showing up in pictures and video noticeably heavier, and with a distinct limp, the AP reported.

For more than three weeks, he hasn't been seen performing his customary public duties in state media coverage, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry, which monitors the North.

Maybe it's gout, unidentified sources tell South Korean reporters, or diabetes, or high blood pressure. A thinly sourced British report says the Swiss-educated dictator has been laid low by a massive cheese addiction.

The fact that Pyongyang acknowledges that Kim is ailing suggests that he may not be suffering from anything particularly serious. The hugely micromanaged state media, for instance, were tight-lipped when Kim's father, Kim Jong Il, suffered major health problems late in his rule.

Kim is believed to have been groomed for the leadership by Kim Jong Il after the elder man suffered a stroke in 2008. Kim Jong Un, who is thought to be 31, reportedly has at least one young daughter but no adult heirs.

The recent health speculation started when Kim, always a large man, began showing up in pictures and video noticeably heavier, and with a distinct limp. For more than three weeks, he hasn't been seen performing his customary public duties in state media coverage, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry, which monitors the North.

And then, on Thursday, his usual seat was empty at a session of the country's rubber stamp parliament. Although Kim Jong Il occasionally missed the meetings, it was the first no-show for Kim Jong Un since he took over after his father's death in late 2011, Seoul officials said.

The same day as the parliamentary meeting, the North aired a documentary with footage from August that showed a limping Kim inspecting a tile factory. "Our marshal continues to light the path for the people like a flame despite his discomfort," a narrator said.

(With AP Inputs)