North Korea has warned citizens not to speak about the health of national leader Kim Jong Un after he recently lost weight, calling such gossip a “reactionary act,” sources in the country say.
Government agencies have pushed the narrative that Kim, dubbed “the highest dignity,” is healthy and that his recent weight loss shows that he is suffering along with his people, who are struggling with chronic food insecurity caused by the effects of prolonged periods Coronavirus pandemic.
Kim was noticeably thinner when he appeared in the state media in June after a long absence and public speculation began.
RFA reported that at the time, authorities viewed the spread of rumors about Kim’s health as treason and were investigating where such conversations began.
However, their attempts to stop people from talking about Kim’s health have apparently failed, sources told RFA.
“When stories of health problems related to the weight loss of the Supreme Dignity began to spread among residents, many of the neighborhood guards here in Chongjin made official statements at their weekly meeting, admitting that it was a ‘reactionary act’ speak health of the leader, ”said a resident of the northeastern port city on August 15.
“The neighborhood guards also said the sudden weight loss was not due to a health problem, but that it is suffering in the best interests of the country and the people in crisis alone,” said the source, who requested anonymity to speak freely.
Some attendees at the meeting said they were heartbroken that their leader was suffering alone while the country faced its greatest crisis, but attendees only said what the meeting leaders wanted to hear, the source said.
“This is the first time the authorities have felt the need to officially declare through neighborhood guards in each region that the Supreme Dignity has no health problems,” the source said.
“But on the other hand, some residents agreed, saying that Kim’s weight loss wasn’t a bad thing as the way he appeared before losing weight seemed more dangerous to his health,” the source said.
Caricature of Rebel Pepper. Credit: RFA
A resident of the city of Sariwon in North Hwanghae Province, south of the capital Pyongyang, told RFA that neighborhood guards there had also warned people not to gossip about Kim’s health.
“Although Sariwon has not called an emergency resident meeting to reassure them that the Supreme Dignity is healthy, he warned people at the neighborhood watch meetings not to mention his health,” said the second source, who requested anonymity for security reasons.
“They stressed that it is forbidden to share stories about the health of the leader, whom they said was emaciated due to the piling up of national affairs. But the public suspicion that he has health problems has not subsided, ”said the second source.
At a neighborhood guard meeting in June, the unit leader spoke for about 20 minutes about how healthy Kim was, the source said.
“The atmosphere at this meeting became very serious for a moment, but as soon as it was over, the residents said it was better now than before [Kim] had gained so much that it was difficult for him to walk, ”said the second source.
According to the second source, it was incredible that during the reign of Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung (1948-1994) or his father Kim Jong Il (1994-2011), people discussed the health of their leader so openly.
“In some cases, the person who spoke about the Führer’s health problems was taken to a political prison with his family. But nowadays everyone is aware of the weight loss of the highest dignity, so the authorities are doing their best to shut up people, ”he said.
“But there will be limits to blocking public opinion completely,” he added.
Whenever Kim Jong Un is out of public for an extended period of time, rumors circulate both inside and outside North Korea of his illness or plans for what could happen after his death.
RFA reported during such an absence in April 2020 that people living near the Chinese border spread rumors that Kim was on her deathbed. At the same time, North Korea observers in the west speculated that Kim’s sister Kim Yo Jong would rule next.
The rumors were quashed when a seemingly healthy Kim on Jan.
Reported by Jeong Yon Park for RFA’s Korean service. Translated by Leejin Jun. Written in English by Eugene Whong.