KIM Jong-un has sparked new health fears as he is pictured with a bandage and mark on his head, triggering rumours he has undergone surgery.
The North Korean dictator was seen with a large bandage on the back of his head at an official meeting in photos released by the country’s state news agency on Friday.
There has been no official word why the tyrant was wearing the flesh-coloured patch, sparking various rumours.
Kim had been presiding over a lecture session for military commanders and political executives which had run for four days from July 24 to 27.
The meeting, held in Pyongyang, was attended by military commanders, members of the Workers’ Party Politburo, the general political bureau of the People's Army and officials from the North's Defence Ministry.
While one of the photos released showed Kim wearing the bandage, another showed the same area with only a dark mark, indicating the bandage that had been removed was covering up a surgical incision or wound.
However, when Kim had visited the Sino-Korean Friendship Tower the next day the bandage or the dark spot could not be clearly seen.
Experts believe the bandage was most likely placed to cover the removal of a non-life-threatening condition, such as an abscess or lipoma.
One professor of infectious diseases, who spoke to the JoongAng Ilbo on the condition of anonymity, said: “Neither an infected pimple nor a lipoma poses a serious health risk.”
He said that lipoma can occur wherever an area of fat in the body grows to become tumorous for no particular reason, and it can occur in various parts of the body, such as the arms or the legs.
He added: “You can usually leave lipomas as they are, but often people remove them for cosmetic reasons.”
Konkuk University Professor Oh Sang-woo, who specialises in family medicine, said: “It appears that he did not undergo a serious operation,” but cautioned that it was hard to glean any meaningful facts about Kim’s state of health from the presence of a bandage.
Rumours about the state of Kim’s health were sparked in June after he was seen having lost a significant amount of weight.
The 37-year-old leader had piled on the pounds since he took power a decade ago - but he recently shed the blubber when he struggled to breathe after ballooning to 22 stone.
South Korea's spy agency said Kim has lost a lot of weight in the last year - possibly more than 40 pounds - after disappearing from the public eye for several months.
The National Intelligence Service said it is believed Kim hit a whopping 22 stone last year after gaining around a stone a year since coming to power in 2011.
According to one source, Kim's cronies said he gained weight due to work-related stress, drinking, heavy smoking and a high-fat diet.
At 5ft 7in, Kim has long been considered obese, after it was revealed he had piled on the pounds amid dire food shortages in his rogue state.
He has struggled with his health as a result of his spiralling weight and his fridge-raiding lifestyle.
Kim has a legendary appetite, apparently gorging himself on Swiss cheese, caviar and lobster while drinking multiple bottles of wine in a night.
It's thought the dictator might have been taking weight loss medication to shed the pounds - or he could have had a bariatric surgery procedure such as a gastric sleeve or a gastric bypass, 38 North reports.
His health has previously been a closely guarded state secret - but starving North Koreans have said they are increasingly worried about the health of their "emaciated" leader, according to state media.
Those close to the North Korean despot are said to have pleaded with Kim to get fit and "take some rest" for the "good of his people".
Chosun Media reports he was eventually persuaded to head to a secretive health retreat after an intervention by key officials.
Speculation over Kim's health, or even if he had died, erupted in 2020 after he appeared and disappeared over three months.
Following his first disappearing act, reports emerged claiming the enigmatic 36-year-old despot had died or was gravely ill after a botched heart operation.
After vanishing for 20 days he turned up on May 1 at a newly-constructed fertiliser plant before again disappearing from public.
And on May 24 Kim reappeared after another three-week absence to discuss putting his nuclear forces on "high alert" amid speculation about his health.
He then vanished and was not seen for more than three weeks.
Speculation about Kim's health has been rumbling on for a number of years.
His longest absence from the public eye was six weeks in 2014.
When he did reappear, he was walking with a cane, raising speculation he could be suffering from gout.
His grandfather and state founder Kim Il Sung had an almost tennis ball-sized growth on the back of his neck