Kim Jong Un has been missing from the public eye for three weeks, fueling rumors that the North Korean leader is facing serious health problems.
Kim was last seen at the beginning of September, appearing alongside wife Ri Sol Ju at a concert in Pyongyang. Rumors began to circulate when Kim Jong Un missed an important parliament meeting this week, with state television outlets broadcasting images of his empty chair at the Supreme People’s Assembly.
There are rumors that Kim Jong Un could be suffering from gout, a form of inflammatory arthritis that is brought on by a diet too reliant on sugar, saturate fat, and red meat.
Some have speculated that Kim has gout after he was seen walking with a limp for several weeks. Experts say that could be a telltale sign of gout.
“Based on his gait, it appears he has gout – something (due to) diet and genetic predisposition that has affected other members of the Kim family,” said Michael Madden, an expert on the North Korean leadership and contributor to the 38 North website.
Gout has run rampant through the ruling family in North Korea, with Kim’s grandfather Kim Il Sung also suffering from the ailment. Kim himself suffers from obesity, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
This week North Korean state media admitted that Kim Jong Un is suffering from “discomfort,” a rare admission that he is in ill health.
“The wealth and prosperity of our socialism is thanks to the painstaking efforts of our marshal, who keeps lighting the path for the people, like the flicker of a flame, despite suffering discomfort,” a voice over for the hour-long documentary said alongside video showing Kim limping.
News outlets noted that Kim Jong Un has been rapidly gaining weight since he took over control of North Korea in 2011 when his father died from a heart attack.