North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un before and after weight loss
Kim Jong-un’s new look is partly because he can’t access his beloved Swiss cheese (Picture: KCNA)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un really looks like he’s shed some pounds in photos recently released by the regime.

The dictator appeared to have a slick, slimmed-down new look during a key ruling party meeting towards the end of the year.

Authorities insisted Kim was eating less ‘for the sake of the country,’ which is grappling with severe food shortages.

He may well want to appear like more of a ‘man of the people’, as being an overweight dictator in a country suffering from starvation isn’t the best look.

But there might be a bit more to it than that, as the country’s tough border closure in response to Covid-19 could be stopping Kim from getting hold of his favourite food.

The tyrant has an obsession with Swiss cheese, gorging on so much of it that at one point he weighed 20 stone and reportedly became so overweight that he fractured his ankles.

He’s also thought to be a big fan of fried chicken, Russian vodka, Hennessy Cognac and champagne.

‘We know that he has good sources, he enjoys cheese, he’s a heavy drinker, he has access to all junk foods,’ North Korea expert Dr. Sojin Lim tells

‘But because of these border closures the way he brings all these foods into North Korea will have been cut. So he doesn’t have the same variety anymore.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a plenary meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party in this photo released on December 28, 2021 by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). KCNA/via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THIS IMAGE. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. SOUTH KOREA OUT.
Authorities have said Kim has been eating less ‘for the sake of the country’ as it suffers food shortages (Picture: Reuters)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a military drill between Korean People's Army (KPA) Large Combined Unit 526 and KPA Combined Unit 478 at an undisclosed location in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang October 24, 2014.
Kim was said to have ballooned to 20 stone at one point and suffered fractured ankles due to his weight (Picture: Reuters)

‘At the same time, he can’t sustain his figure as a fat person because in the domestic environment people are starving.

‘If he sustains that look, that will only add to the grievances of people. So tactically it could coincide with that.’

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Some defectors have suggested Kim may have deliberately gained weight to look more like his bulky grandfather and North Korea’s founder Kim Il-sung.

But the leader’s restricted access to fatty foods may play in his favour as he seeks to boost morale while his people starve.

‘He can’t access certain food anymore but at the same time losing weight doesn’t mean he’s losing his legacy from his grandfather,’ says Dr Lim, a senior lecturer and co-director of the International Institute of Korean studies at the University of Central Lancashire.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, center, attends a meeting of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers' Party in Pyongyang, North Korea. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government.
He may be working economic problems to his advantage, crafting an image as a ‘man of the people’ who suffers the same as everyone else (Picture: AP)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (R) supervising a
Defectors have suggested Kim deliberately stuffed his face to achieve the same bulky appearance as his grandfather Kim Il-sung (Picture: AFP/Getty Images)

‘It also shows people that “I’m with you, I’m not taking all this food for myself, I’m like you, I’m also suffering.”

‘Because of his cult of personality and propaganda, all of his image is crafted – nothing is natural. It’s not so different from here, with Boris Johnson and his hairstyle.

‘Kim Jong-un’s look is more about people at home, not about the powers outside. It’s more about how he can manage inside at the moment.’

While North Korea’s strict ‘zero Covid’ policy could mean no more luxury imported foods for its tyrant, it is having a more severe impact on its ordinary people.

The East Asian nation hasn’t confirmed a single case of the virus, but still it has locked down entire cities and has implemented a ‘shoot on sight’ policy at its southern border.

Kim Jong Un, general secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea (WPK) and president of the State Affairs of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), watched the test-fire of hypersonic missile conducted by the Academy of Defence Science, photo taken at an undisclosed location, 11 January 2022
The North Korean leader wears a shiny trench coat as he watches a missile test on Tuesday (Picture: EPA)
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves as he attended a military parade, marking the ruling party congress, at Kim Il Sung Square in Pyongyang, North Korea, Jan. 14, 2021. North Korea on Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, urged its 1.2 million troops to unite behind leader Kim Jong Un and defend him with their lives, as the country celebrated the 10th anniversary of his ascension to supreme commander of the military.
It is thought Kim no longer has the same variety of food due to the country’s ‘zero Covid’ policy (Picture: AP)

North Korea resumed cross border rail freight deliveries between China in November, desperate to boost its economy.

But imports are kept in a quarantine facility for seven days before being distributed to other parts of the country.

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Corruption and economic mismanagement is part of the problem, but sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the US in response to North Korea’s nuclear programme are also a factor.

A series of missile tests carried out by the regime at the start of the year have prompted the US to impose fresh sanctions and call for new ones from the UN.

But Dr Lim suggests the provocative launches could be a tactic to get the White House on the negotiating table in order to secure humanitarian aid.

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