As food shortages in North Korea leave the people on the verge of starvation, whether for appearance purposes or health reasons, the country’s rotund leader, Kim Jung-un, has dropped a few pounds. If done for appearances only, he has undoubtedly found that pushing away from the table has been the most difficult part of his 10-year rule.
Looking at Kim’s normal physical appearance, one would assume food in his country was bountiful. Taking power upon his father’s death in 2011, Kim at one point tipped the scales at an estimated 308 pounds. His obese appearance belies the not too uncommon crisis now in North Korea, a food shortage. But it is difficult for Pyongyang’s leader, as a feasting “Incredible Bulk,” to tell his people they need to tighten their belts when he tips the scales at the weight of more than two average North Koreans. Even with his recent weight loss, he gives the appearance of a poster child for over-eaters.
While Kim dynasty leaders have had weight issues, the problem for the North Korean people has been just the opposite. The Hermit Kingdom has been prone to suffer famines, such as one during the mid-1990s that claimed hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of lives.
Although Kim’s increasing weight has never gained state media attention in North Korea, a recent article showed a somewhat slimmer-looking leader, appearing to have lost somewhere between 22 and 44 pounds. It spins the tale of a nation heartbroken and in tears over an “emaciated” Kim. It is quite an exaggeration for one who, despite the weight loss, remains obese.
Historically, because contributing factors to famine include poor planning, isolation and a misguided policy of “juche” (self-sufficiency), North Korea’s leadership has been reluctant to admit their mistakes. Today, a generation of young North Koreans bear the scars of an earlier famine, reflected by the physical standards for North Korean army conscripts. Height and weight requirements for draftees have been lowered. Conscripts previously had to be at least 59 inches tall and weigh 106 pounds; today, they only need to be 54 inches tall and weigh 95 pounds. Compare this to height standards for South Korean conscripts of 68 inches.
Although today’s North Korean army would be dwarfed not only by that of either America or South Korea, Pyongyang’s nuclear arsenal is what gives this army of dwarfs its real bite.
Extreme drought – the worst in almost four decades – has triggered fears of worsening food shortages. Occasionally, in the past, when hit with famines, Pyongyang reluctantly sought international assistance to meet food needs. However, there was seldom enough food assistance to feed the entire population of 25 million. Faced with this shortage, distribution priority was given to the elite and the military. When international providers discovered this, they insisted upon injecting themselves into the distribution process; however, unbeknownst to them, North Korean soldiers followed in their wake, collecting the distributed food from those to whom it was given to redistribute as per the government’s priority.
A spiraling economy has not been helpful to Pyongyang as the pandemic has resulted in the borders with China being closed down – a country responsible for almost 90% of North Korea’s trade. The economy has suffered the worst shrinkage since the 1990s.
Recently, after one of North Korea’s worst harvests in a decade, the United Nations estimated about 40% of the population was facing “severe food shortages,” with no relief in sight. Pyongyang has blamed conditions both on the bad weather and international economic sanctions imposed upon it after Kim conducted a series of high-profile nuclear and missile tests, although humanitarian relief has never been banned.
Kim’s tests caused President Joe Biden and South Korean President Moon Jae-In to agree to a termination of a 1979 pact, negotiated by the administration of President Jimmy Carter, capping Seoul’s development of ballistic missiles. While its termination has triggered an angry verbal response from Pyongyang, it does nothing to reduce the North Korean threat. For Kim, it will be business as usual – pumping funds into his own nuclear program as his people continue starving.
Interestingly, too, in January Kim established a position within the Workers’ Party of Korea, effectively appointing a new second-in-command. Not appointing his sister to the position may suggest it is to be filled by a “fall guy” for Kim he could blame later should the domestic situation become even more dire. After all, he has observed how American Democrats have used their “blame Trump for everything” policy.
Perhaps in hopes the international community can be bamboozled again, for over two years now, North Korea’s U.N. ambassador has been appealing for food assistance, claiming the sanctions were “barbaric and inhumane.” While Pyongyang did make an offer to President Donald Trump during their second summit meeting in Vietnam to undertake partial denuclearization measures in exchange for lifting sanctions, Trump, knowing North Korea’s history of noncompliance, had demanded complete denuclearization.
When it comes to North Korea and its history of noncompliance with international agreements, both Biden and Moon are neophytes. Moon, especially, has proven to be North Korea’s lapdog, making it illegal for South Korean humanitarian groups to send balloons north carrying human rights pamphlets, food, etc. after Pyongyang demanded the practice be stopped. Thus, we can expect both Moon and Biden to ignore the North’s past transgressions, eventually feeding the hand that seeks to strike them.
On the television program “The Biggest Loser,” contestants struggled to lose the most weight. While the Incredible Bulk has managed to lose a few pounds, he will never be the biggest loser – a role that will be reserved for Moon and Biden after Kim gets what he wants.
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This article was originally published by the WND News Center.