Kim Jong Un's Weight Loss Worries North Koreans: 'Breaks Our People's Heart'

North Koreans are growing concerned over leader Kim Jong Un's "emaciated" appearance, according to state-controlled media.

The rare public acknowledgment about Kim's health comes after the leader appeared to have lost a considerable amount of weight during a public broadcast earlier in June.

Following the appearance, which had been Kim's first public outing in around a month, NK News, based in South Korea, said he had fastened his watch more tightly and had a slimmer wrist.

This weight loss was acknowledged in an apparent vox pop, where a man in the North Korean capital Pyongyang said his countrymen were upset after seeing the images.

He added: "Seeing respected general secretary [Kim Jong Un] looking emaciated breaks our people's heart so much. Everyone is saying that their tears welled up."

In the interview clip, which Reuters could not independently verify, residents in Pyongyang watched a large screen that showed Kim and high-level officials following a Workers' Party of Korea meeting.

It did not give any information about how Kim had suddenly lost a considerable amount of weight.

But North Korea experts are not convinced the interview was as spontaneous as it might first appear and could have been staged for propaganda reasons.

Christopher Green, a Korea specialist at the Netherlands' Leiden University told Reuters: "What matters is that the North Korean regime will have received word from its many, many, many informants that Kim's condition was a talking point among ordinary people.

"From there it is a simple matter to respond by designing a propaganda strategy to use the existing public discussion to the regime's advantage."

He added using unnamed residents in interviews was a commonplace tactic to make media interviews appear to be more authentic.

Speculation about Kim's health intensified in 2020 when he failed to appear at the birth anniversary celebrations of the Korean state's founder, and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung on April 15.

He later reappeared in early May 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic when he attended the opening of a fertilizer factory just north of Pyongyang. There had been speculation that Kim had been seriously ill following heart surgery.

Former President Donald Trump, in office at the time, appeared to acknowledge the growing conversation about Kim's health in a Twitter post. He said: "I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well."

Aside from apparent concerns about Kim's health, in a rare move, the leader admitted North Korea faced food shortages, which he blamed on floods and typhoons from 2020.

According to Reuters, North Korea observers believe the country could be heading into its largest food crisis since the 1990s.

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, told the news agency: "By most indications, there appear to be food shortages in the range of 1.35 million to 1.5 million tons, the worst food crisis since the 1990s."

He added: "It would be a mistake to just view it as a food shortage. It is not just the result of typhoons and floods, but also due to major policy failures and corruption."

Kim Jong-Un's health has been widely discussed
In this photo, North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un speaks during the Russia-North Korea Summit on April 25, 2019 in Vladivostok, Russia. Kim Jong Un's health has been widely discussed. Mikhail Svetlov / Contributor/Getty