Mystery Over N. Korean Leader Fuels Health Rumors

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -

North Korea’s authoritarian leader makes no public appearances for three weeks, skipping a high-profile event he usually attends. An official documentary shows him limping and overweight and mentions his “discomfort.” What follows is a smorgasbord of media speculation about what’s eating Kim Jong Un.

Maybe it’s gout, unidentified sources tell South Korean reporters, or diabetes, or high blood pressure. A thinly sourced British report says the Swiss-educated dictator has been laid low by a massive cheese addiction. A headline in Seoul offers up the possibility of a common South Korean obsession: fried chicken and beer.

So what’s going on? Maybe not much.

As is always the case, much more than what’s seen publicly is happening behind the well-guarded scenes with North Korea’s No. 1. But just the fact that Pyongyang acknowledges that Kim is ailing suggests that he may not be suffering from anything particularly serious. The hugely micromanaged state media, for instance, were tight-lipped when Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, suffered major health problems late in his rule.