What Kim’s obesity means
In 1959, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visited the United States for a meeting with President Dwight Eisenhower, and the Central Intelligence Agency conducted a secret operation to sweep the toilet of the room he had stayed for a sample of his excrement. The purpose was to assess Khrushchev’s health.
In the world of international intelligence, the health conditions of foreign leaders are valuable information. The fate of a country may depend on the health of its leader. The CIA established the Medical and Psychiatric Analysis Center (MPAC) in the 1960s to assess the health of hundreds of foreign leaders using all possible channels.
Thanks to the accumulated information, Washington could confirm that Cuban leader Fidel Castro was suffering from a bleeding ulcer when he was hospitalized in July 2006. A key hint was the dialogue between Castro and legendary boxer Muhammad Ali during his visit to Cuba. The CIA’s intelligence network learned that Castro told Ali he was only consuming 1,500 calories a day, with less than 30 grams (1.06 ounces) of protein. Also, when he met with John Paul II, Castro confessed that he was suffering from arthritis. These pieces of information came together to form a bigger, more accurate picture.
When no direct information is available, the CIA examines video footage and newspaper photographs. When there were rumors of Mao Zedong’s health conditions in the 1970s, the CIA predicted the health of the Chinese leader based on the size of age spots on his face and movements featured on media.
On January 1, North Korea’s chairman of the National Defense Commission made an appearance to read the New Year’s address. He had gained about 40 kilograms (88 pounds) in four years, from 80 to 120 kilograms. Probably because of the sudden weight gain, his breath was short and his words slurred. Obesity increases the risk of heart conditions by 49 percent. Kim is a heavy smoker and drinker. He is at high risk for heart disease. His grandfather and father, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong-il, died of myocardial infarction. Recently, the Institute for National Security and Strategy warned that we need to pay attention to the possibility of unexpected situations due to Kim Jong-un’s health issues this year.
However, according to the Impact of Coronary Heart Disease on World Leaders by CIA in 2001, world leaders are dying less frequently from heart conditions thanks to medical advancements. One hundred and fifteen world leaders have had heart conditions between 1970 and 2000. Twenty seven had heart attacks in the ’70s, 19 in the ’80s and 18 in the ’90s. It concluded that the cases of leadership change as a result of heart problem is likely to decrease. It is something Koreans should ponder over.
The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 4, Page 31
by NAM JEONG-HO