Kim was dressed in a cream-colored suit with a shiny white tie and emerged at midnight. To the thunderous applause of performers and spectators filling Pyongyang’s brightly lit Kim Il Sung Square (named after his grandfather, who was the country's founder), he emitted a beaming smile.
He smiled broadly, waved at the crowd and gave flowers to children before taking his place on a balcony to watch the parade. He laughed loudly, applauded all the marchers and had animated conversations with high-ranking officials.
This marked a drastic change from 2018 when TV footage showed Moon Jae-in struggling to catch his breathe while accompanying South Korean President Moon Jae -in on a short hike up North Korea's Mount Paektu as part of a period diplomatic engagement. Moon, three decades older than Kim was, seemed unaffected by the walk.
Park Won-gon, a Seoul professor of North Korea studies at Seoul’s Ewha Womans University, said that "His face appears thinner and he is moving more vigorously."
Experts believe Kim's weight loss may be due to his efforts to get in shape rather than an indication of his health problems. This is despite his public activities. This may also be a political motive.
Kim faces perhaps his most difficult moment as he nears a decade of government. North Korea is fighting with U.S.-led sanctions over its nuclear weapons and pandemic border closings, which further strain its economy. Food shortages have been made worse by recent floods.
Analyst Park stated that Kim must project a youthful, energetic leader who can steer the country out of trouble. This image-making effort would be in line with the recent parade that featured civil defense units who were involved in rebuilding the economy and communities devastated by flooding and stressed a national message of unity.
Yang Moo-jin is a professor at University of North Korean Studies Seoul. He said that Kim's weight loss and cheerful attitude at the parade are likely to portray him as a normal stateman who interacts with the public.
Yang stated that Yang is also a husband, father to three children and is in his 40s. Yang believes it's not unusual for him to care about his health.