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Kim Jong Un limps in the face of adversity

FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the proposed building site for the Ryonpho Vegetable Greenhouse Farm in the Ryonpho area of Hamju County, North Korea, in this undated photo released January 28, 2022 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS

A documentary shown on Tuesday has a limping North Korean leader Kim Jong Un tackling the impoverished country’s “worst-ever challenges,” including the coronavirus pandemic and sanctions over its weapons programmes.

The news: The 110-minute film, titled “The Great Year of Victory, 2021,” recounted a number of accomplishments throughout the year, including missile development, construction, and efforts to combat the epidemic.

  • The presenter praised such initiatives as marks of success led by a considerably slimmer Kim, echoing earlier documentaries used by state media to create a semi-divine personality cult around him.
  • The video did not go into the difficulties, but reclusive North Korea, unlike prosperous, democratic South Korea, is experiencing severe food shortages as a result of sanctions, drought, and floods.
FILE PHOTO: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the proposed building site for the Ryonpho Vegetable Greenhouse Farm in the Ryonpho area of Hamju County, North Korea, in this undated photo released January 28, 2022 by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA via REUTERS

What’s going on: North Korea has closed its borders despite not having confirmed any COVID-19 incidents. Despite a deadlock over discussions intended at eliminating its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in exchange for relief from UN and US sanctions, it has continued to develop its weapons programmes.

  • Kim was seen struggling to go down makeshift stairs during a visit to a rainy construction site at one point in the video.
  • Although the film did not specifically mention Kim’s weight reduction, he has appeared slimmer in recent official media pictures.
  • In June, official media reported that North Koreans were “heartbroken” to see a “emaciated” Kim resurface after a nearly month-long seclusion from the public spotlight.
  • Due to his tight grasp on power and the ambiguity surrounding succession plans, international media, intelligence agencies, and specialists are keeping a close eye on Kim’s health.
  • Kim was also seen alone on a beach watching the sunrise while riding a white horse. On another ride, he was spotted with military leaders, including Pak Jong Chon, the Korean People’s Army’s chief of general staff, and tanks performing live-fire drills.
  • Rare shots of a new 80-storey skyscraper and a big apartment area were included in the film, as well as footage and images from a defence expo held in October and prior missile testing.

In December, Kim claimed the ruling party had made progress in following a five-year economic plan he released early last year, but he predicted a “very giant struggle” this year, citing the epidemic and economic challenges.

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