Kim Jong-un “completely withered away” as he tackled an impoverished North Korea’s “worst-ever hardships” in 2021, according to a new documentary broadcast by the country’s state media on Tuesday.
The North Korean propaganda film was entitled “The Great Year of Victory, 2021” and listed what it said were the hermit kingdom’s achievements on weapons development, infrastructure projects and more.
In the documentary, Mr Kim is seen limping and struggling to descend makeshift stairs while holding an umbrella during a visit to a construction site.
An emotional narrator is heard saying: “His body completely withered away, and he showed his motherly side by greatly suffering and worrying to realise the dreams of the people.”
The narrator went on to suggest that Mr Kim’s health issues were a result of hard work but did not refer directly to the dramatic drop in his weight as he took frequent weeks long breaks from public view.
“[Kim Jong Un] showed us his fatherly side by doggedly braving snow, rain and wind while taking on the fate of the nation and people like his own children,” the narrator reportedly said while showing a struggling Mr Kim limping down the stairs, reported the North Korea watchdog website NK News.
Another part of the documentary showed Mr Kim riding horses on a beach 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.
He is also seen riding horses with his wife Ri Sol-ju, sister Kim Yo-jong, top assistant Hyon Song-wol, top political official Jo Yong-won and others at Mount Paektu on an unconfirmed date from summer last year as the leader looked thin and healthy.
North Korea has not admitted registering a single Covid-19 case to the world, a claim that is met with scepticism by experts. But it has regardless been battered by the pandemic, with the closure of its long border with China contributing to deep food shortages. It has also seen drought and floods in the past year, and continues to languish under UN sanctions imposed over its weapons programme.
These issues were not referred to specifically in the documentary film, which said that the country’s unspecified “hardships” were now under control.
As well as shots of Mr Kim, the film provides a rare peek into Pyongyang’s new 80-storey skyscraper and a large apartment district.
Some of the later clips are identifiable as being from North Korea’s boisterous defence expo in October, but there was nothing from the seven missile launches in January this year.
The documentary lauding Mr Kim is in line with other end-of-year films released in North Korea — one is released once a year by Korean Central Television (KCTV) detailing the leader’s activities and crediting him with working to solve North Korea’s problems. The newest instalment is likely to be aired repeatedly in North Korea in the coming weeks, experts said.