Kim Jong-un has sparked new health fears after being pictured with a bandage and mark on his head, triggering rumours he has undergone surgery.
The North Korean dictator was seen with a large bandage on the back of his head at an official meeting in photos released by the country’s state news agency on Friday.
There has been no official word as to why he was wearing the flesh-coloured patch.
Mr Kim had been presiding over a lecture session for military commanders and political executives, which had run for four days from July 24 to 27.
The meeting, held in Pyongyang, was attended by military commanders, members of the Workers’ Party Politburo, the general political bureau of the People’s Army and officials from the North’s Defence Ministry.
While one of the photos released showed Mr Kim wearing the bandage, another showed the same area with only a dark mark, indicating the bandage that had been removed was covering up a surgical incision or wound.
However, when Mr Kim visited the Sino-Korean Friendship Tower the next day, the bandage or the dark spot could not be clearly seen.
Experts believe the bandage was most likely placed to cover the removal of a non-life-threatening condition, such as an abscess or lipoma.
One professor of infectious diseases, who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity, said: “Neither an infected pimple nor a lipoma poses a serious health risk.”
He said that lipoma can occur wherever an area of fat in the body grows to become tumorous for no particular reason, and it can occur in various parts of the body, such as the arms or the legs.
He added: “You can usually leave lipomas as they are, but often people remove them for cosmetic reasons.”
Konkuk University Professor Oh Sang-woo, who specialises in family medicine, said: “It appears that he did not undergo a serious operation,” but cautioned that it was hard to glean any meaningful facts about Mr Kim’s state of health from the presence of a bandage.
Rumours about the state of Mr Kim’s health were sparked in June after he was seen having lost a significant amount of weight.
The 37-year-old leader gained weight after rising to power a decade ago – but he recently shed some unwanted kilos.
South Korea’s spy agency said Mr Kim has lost a lot of weight in the last year – possibly more than 18kg – after disappearing from the public eye for several months.
According to one source, Mr Kim’s doctors said he gained weight due to work-related stress, drinking, heavy smoking and a high-fat diet.
He has struggled with his health as a result of his spiralling weight.
It’s thought the dictator might have been taking weight loss medication to shed the kilos – or he could have had a bariatric surgery procedure such as a gastric sleeve or a gastric bypass, 38 North reports.
His health has previously been a closely guarded state secret – but some North Koreans have said they are increasingly worried about the health of their “emaciated” leader, according to state media.
Those close to the North Korean despot are said to have pleaded with Kim to get fit and “take some rest” for the “good of his people”.
Chosun Media reports he was eventually persuaded to head to a secretive health retreat after an intervention by key officials.
Speculation over Mr Kim’s health, or even if he had died, erupted in 2020 after he appeared and disappeared over three months.
Following his first disappearing act, reports emerged claiming the enigmatic 36-year-old despot had died or was gravely ill after a botched heart operation.
After vanishing for 20 days he turned up on May 1 at a newly-constructed fertiliser plant before again disappearing from public.
And on May 24, Mr Kim reappeared after another three-week absence to discuss putting his nuclear forces on “high alert” amid speculation about his health.
He then vanished and was not seen for more than three weeks.
Speculation about Mr Kim’s health has been rumbling on for a number of years.
His longest absence from the public eye was for six weeks in 2014.
When he did reappear, he was walking with a cane, raising speculation he could be suffering from gout.
His grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung had an almost tennis ball-sized growth on the back of his neck
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission