North Korea dictator Kim Jong-un fears his country is facing a “tense” food shortage after photos of his own weight loss emerged.
The country’s slimmed-down leader, 37, has ordered officials considering ways to increase farming production after admitting “the people’s food situation is now getting tense,” according to the state media outlet KCNA.
North Korea’s economy has struggled since it closed its border with China to control the Covid-19 pandemic.
And its agriculture industry has been further decimated by a series of typhoons and floods last summer.
These difficult conditions are believed to match those said to have played a major role in a famine which swept North Korea during the 1990s, killing thousands in the country.
Analysts claim mass starvation or major instability have not yet become an issue yet, but some warned issues that undercuts food and exchange markets can trigger public panic.
The South Korean government’s Korea Development Institute said last month the North could face food shortages of about 1million tons this year.
Rumours of a potential food shortage have been rife in recent days after images of a slimmer Kim first surfaced on Wednesday.
The photos, taken at a meeting of the eighth central committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) in Pyongyang, clearly show him much slimmer than previously seen, with visible weight lost on his face and and arms.
Fresh peculation has been mounting about the typically portly ruler’s health issues, which include diabetes, high blood pressure, and hereditary heart problems.
In a recent state address, Kim said he wanted lockdown measures to continue while Covid-19 remained a threat, telling officials to “maintain perfect anti-epidemic state under the present condition.”
North Korea says it has not had a single case of COVID-19 since the pandemic began in December 2019, but its claim has failed to convince experts, with many pointing to its poor healthcare record and infrastructure, and porous border with China.