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(3rd LD) N.K. leader loses 20 kilograms, has no health issues: Seoul's spy agency

North Korea 19:04 October 28, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with more details in paras 9-11)
By Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Oct. 28 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has lost around 20 kilograms after previously weighing about 140 kg, but he appears to have no health issues, South Korea's spy agency was quoted as saying Thursday.

The National Intelligence Service (NIS) gave the briefing during a closed-door parliamentary session, rejecting rumors that the communist regime was using a stand-in for Kim during recent public appearances, Rep. Kim Byung-kee of the ruling Democratic Party told reporters.

The NIS made the assessment after conducting a detailed study of the North Korean leader's health using artificial intelligence and other scientific methods, the lawmaker said.

Kim's health has been a frequent subject of speculation due to the political implications in the event that he is unable to perform his duties. No known successor has been appointed.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un delivers a congratulatory speech during a visit to a defense development exhibition, Self-Defence-2021, in Pyongyang on Oct. 11, 2021, in this file photo released by the Korean Central News Agency. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Kim carried out public activities on 71 days this year, which is 45 percent more than during the same period last year, the NIS said.

He has also removed portraits of his father and grandfather, former leaders Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, from the backdrop of official meetings, indicating a departure from the shadow of his predecessors.

Internally, the term "Kim Jong-un-ism" is being used, the agency said.

The leader's sister, Kim Yo-jong, has conducted public activities on 34 occasions this year, double the number last year, and oversees the regime's relations with South Korea and the United States while also making undisclosed trips to the provinces to check on people's livelihoods and report her findings to her brother.

The NIS said it detected signs that a 5-megawatt nuclear reactor at North Korea's Yongbyon complex was recently reactivated, with its reprocessing facilities also appearing to have been in operation for seven months from February.

The NIS believes North Korea could have reprocessed spent nuclear fuel rods during the period to harvest weapons-grade plutonium and bolster its nuclear capabilities, thus highlighting the strategic value of the Yongbyon complex.

Last month's launch of a new hypersonic missile was the first test of the weapon, meaning it will require additional tests, according to the agency.

On the North's economic difficulties, the NIS said cross-border trade with China came to US$185 million during the first nine months of this year, which is a third of the level during the same period last year, Rep. Ha Tae-keung of the main opposition People Power Party told reporters.

The North's central bank has struggled to print money due to shortages of paper and ink and a scarcity of medicines has led to the spread of infectious diseases.

The North Korean leader has said he feels like he is walking on thin ice due to the economic situation and ordered "all who eat to go help farming villages," Kim, the lawmaker, quoted the NIS as saying.


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