Kim Jong-un Is Missing, Might Have Gout

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North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles during a visit to the Chonji Lubricant Factory, in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang August 6, 2014. REUTERS/KCNA (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS IMAGES OF THE DAY) ATTENTION EDITORS ? THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - RTR41DI9
A visit to the lubricant factory.Photo: © KCNA KCNA / Reuters

Following a very pleasant-looking summer vacation, North Korea’s young ruler, Kim Jong-un, missed Thursday’s performative parliamentary meeting, fueling speculation that he is battling some health issues. 

After a three-week absence, state run North Korean media — is there any other kind? — acknowledged the situation, saying that the 31-year-old was suffering “discomfort.” Dear Leader has also been seen limping around since July. Add to those symptoms his well-documented Swiss cheese addiction, and you may have an answer: gout.

And this isn’t just outlandish Daily Mail speculation, either. The Wall Street Journal reports that South Korean officials think the plumped-up dictator suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity on top of his gout problems, similar to the set of ailments that afflicted his grandfather. Not that North Korean doctors will know how to treat such a thing, of course — gout is notorious for affecting those with access to decadent food, which most starving North Koreans definitely do not have.

There’s also the slight possibility that Kim has been absent because of ongoing power struggles within the military. But given the family predisposition, gout seems like a safer bet. And given North Korea’s iron-clad secrecy, we’ll probably never find out.