The bandage was visible in state media images when Kim appeared at a Korean People’s Army event July 24-27, according to NK News website and Chosun Ilbo newspaper. There were also images at events in late July in which the bandage had disappeared and a greenish spot was visible, they said, citing a review by North Korean state media.
While the leader’s health is one of North Korea’s best-kept secrets, it has allowed rare references to the 37-year-old leader’s condition as he tries to revive the economy and tackle food shortages. For decades, state propaganda has portrayed the supreme leader as so focused on people who risk their own well-being.
In June, state media cited a citizen who said North Koreans burst into tears when they saw a dramatically weaker Kim, who returned to the public eye cutting a much thinner figure after missing most of May.
Kim keeps his hair shaved below the level of his temple, making it difficult to hide any imperfections on the back of his head. By posting the images to the outside world, North Korea was providing fodder to spy agencies seeking evidence of Kim’s health.
Mysterious spot and bandage appear on the back of Kim Jong Un’s head https://t.co/IaRCEzzyTR https://t.co/jd2Ppz7jdX
– Chad O’Carroll (@chadocl) 1627892344000
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service says there were no unusual signs of Kim’s health, the Yonhap news agency reported on Tuesday. He cited lawmakers who had been briefed by the spy service, which added that the patch was removed after a few days and there was no scarring.
NK News, a country-specific intelligence service, said there was no mark on the back of Kim’s head in photos released by state media when he attended a July 11 event with musicians, adding that the leader probably passed year after that at a seaside mansion in Wonsan.
After a prolonged absence last year that raised concerns about the stability of his regime, Kim showed up for a May Day 2020 event at a fertilizer factory with marks on his wrists that fueled speculation that he may have undergone medical treatment.
It is still shrinking
Kim – overweight and a smoker – has been the subject of health speculation for years. His longest absence from the limelight was six weeks in 2014. When he reappeared, he was walking with a cane, speculating that he may be suffering from gout.
His grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung had a growth almost the size of a tennis ball on the back of his neck, which was photographed on international travel all these years. His propaganda machine made sure he never appeared in public.
Kim Jong Un is facing one of the most difficult periods of his rule that began in late 2011. The economy in 2020 recorded its sharpest decline in more than two decades due to coronavirus, natural disasters and international sanctions, according to the Korean central bank data released last week. Gross domestic product was lower last year than when Kim took over, he said.
The North Korean leader has issued rare warnings of economic struggles and food shortages, but so far has shown no sign of being willing to return to talks to reduce his nuclear arsenal in exchange for financial incentives.