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North Korea's Kim struts red carpet in dress sandals and a suit

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By Reuters

By Josh Smith

SEOUL – Kim Jong Un caught the eye of international observers during a speech marking the North Korean ruling party’s founding on Sunday – but for his choice of footwear, rather than anything in his routine remarks.

Kim strode on to the red carpet of a lavish hall wearing what appeared to be shiny black sandals over black socks, to complement his dark suit, burgundy necktie, and half-rim eyeglasses, according to video broadcast by state media on Monday.

Colin Zwirko, senior analytic correspondent for Seoul-based NK News, spotted the footwear, but said it was unclear why Kim decided to wear the sandals, or whether he’d worn them before.

Whatever the reason, Kim does seem to be taking steps lately to protect his health and comfort, he said.

“He lost a significant amount of weight in a short period in May and in September he was seen standing on padded mats during long speeches, which is not typical,” Zwirko said. “It appears he’s being extra careful with COVID and may be dealing with ongoing health issues.”

Kim’s clothing choices are often carefully scrutinized by international analysts seeking clues about his health, which is a closely guarded secret in the North.

When Kim reappeared in state media in early June after not being seen in public for almost a month, analysts noted that his watch appeared to be fastened more tightly than before around an apparently slimmer wrist, sparking speculation over the health of a leader who holds an iron grip in North Korea.

State media later made a rare mention of the leader’s health, quoting an unidentified resident of Pyongyang as saying that everyone in North Korea was heartbroken after seeing images of Kim looking “emaciated”.

In his speech on Sunday, Kim focused on party issues and urged officials to focus on improving citizens’ lives in the face of a “grim” economic situation.