Kim Jong Un has appeared unsteady on his feet and limping in a new propaganda film released by North Korea recapping the dictator’s activities last year.
The previously unseen footage – which was mixed in with older footage of the dictator that has been seen before – is thought to show Kim during a visit to a construction site in Pyongyang in August 2021.
Kim, believed to be 38, is shown touring the site with his lackeys while having a cigarette, before struggling to get down a set of temporary stairs.
While those around him don’t appear to be having much trouble, Kim walks gingerly down the steps – careful to take them one at a time while men standing either side of him appear ready to catch him in case he falls.
Kim Jong Un appears unsteady on his feet in never-before-seen footage, thought to have been taken in August last year but released today by North Korea
Kim is seen struggling down a set of temporary steps in the footage, with the narrator saying the 38-year-old has ‘dedicated his own body to realise people’s dreams’
‘This video showed his motherly side where he completely dedicated his own body to realise people’s dreams,’ the narrator says over the footage.
Kim’s visit to the site was previously disclosed in state media, but only photographs were published that showed him touring the new neighbourhood.
The inspection marked the first time Kim had been seen in public for three weeks up to that point, one of several extended absences in 2021 that were almost unheard of during previous years.
In his final appearance before that absence, Kim had a large, dark spot on the back of his head that he covered with a plaster in some footage.
Speculation about Kim’s health has been rife since he vanished for 21 days in 2020, sparking rumours he had died or was seriously ill, but experts were not able to say what might have caused the mark on his head.
There does not appear to be any evidence of the mark in the newly-released video.
Entitled The Great Year of Victory, 2021, the 110-minute film propaganda chronicled ‘Kim’s achievements’ throughout the year while telling viewers their leader had been working to overcome ‘worst-ever hardships’.
The video does not elaborate on the ‘hardships’, but North Korea is thought to have been hit particularly hard by border closures to halt the spread of Covid.
State media had previously released images of Kim’s visit to the site (above), but today is though to be the first time video of it was released
Before visiting the construction site, Kim was seen with a dark spot and plaster on the back of his head. He then disappeared for weeks before reemerging at the site
Covered in mountains which make most of its territory unsuitable for farming, North Korea does not produce enough food to support its population even in good years – relying on imports from neighbouring China.
But a series of natural disasters such as typhoons and floods have devastated recent harvests, leaving the country desperately short on supplies.
Border closures mean few if any imports are arriving, worsening the situation.
It is unclear exactly how bad things are, but some experts have compared the shortages to a great famine in the 1990s when it is thought around 3million people starved to death.
Covid is also thought to have spread to North Korea despite the state not reporting any cases, thought it is unclear exactly how widespread it is.
The film did not directly refer to Kim’s weight loss, but he has appeared increasingly thinner in recent state media photos.
In June, state media said North Koreans were ‘heartbroken’ to see an ‘emaciated’ Kim, in a rare acknowledgement of the leader’s health.
His weightloss follows his disappearance and rumours of his death in 2020, during which his sister Kim Yo Jong appeared to getting ready to take the reins of power.
Kim eventually reemerged and remains in control of the country, though absences from public view have become more frequent and some of his powers have been delegated – including to the likes of Jong.
The film also features new footage of Kim Jong Un galloping on a white horse, recapping a year of ‘achievements’ in 2021 despite ‘worst-ever hardships’
Kim is seen riding a horse on a beach at sunset in more footage from the film – thought to be the first time it has been shown to the outside world
The North Korean dictator is shown meeting with soldiers and overseeing artillery drills
Experts have said for years that the greatest threat to Kim’s health is his own lifestyle.
He is thought to have tipped the scales at around 20 stone at his heaviest, is known to be a prolific smoker, and – at the time his weigh ballooned – was undertaking the high-stress job of negotiating his country’s nuclear stockpile with Donald Trump.
International media, intelligence agencies and experts closely watch Kim’s health due to his tight grip on power and the uncertainty over succession plans.
The documentary also showed Kim watching the sunrise alone while riding a white horse on a beach.
On another ride, he was seen with military officials including Pak Jong Chon, chief of the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army, followed by a clip of tanks staging live-fire drills.
The film included rare images of a new 80-storey skyscraper and a large apartment district, as well as some clips and images of a defence expo in October and previous missile tests.
In December, Kim said the ruling party had some success in implementing a five-year economic plan he unveiled early last year, but warned of a ‘very giant struggle’ this year, citing the pandemic and economic difficulties.