North Korea's Kim Jong-un has piled on so much weight that he has fractured both his ankles and remains in hospital after an operation, it was reported today.
The leader of the impoverished nation is estimated to have ballooned to 20 stone as a result of fine wining and dining - putting enormous pressure on his feet and legs.
A source who has recently returned to the South Korean capital, Seoul, from the North said Kim, believed to be 31, is still in hospital under guard from his personal protection team.
'There's been a marked increase in the number of elite officials visiting the ward,' said the source, whose comments were supported by an intelligence official in Seoul who said Kim's official car did not appear to have left Pyongyang in recent weeks.
Obese Kim is believed to have sprained then fractured his ankles during a gruelling tour of military bases and factories in shoes with Cuban heels to give him a little more height and a physical appearance of more authority.
The 31-year-old North Korean leader got a taste for Swiss cheese while a student in Switzerland - and is understood to love it so much that he imports vast quantities, despite Western sanctions.
'He has become noticeably overweight since he came to power,' said the un-named intelligence official.
In a clip from North Korea's Central TV, shown recently, Kim was seen limping when he visited a government establishment, but the date of he appointment was not known.
There have been earlier suggestions that Kim's obesity and binge drinking have brought on gout which confined him to his residence for several days.
His aides, however, were determined to turn his health problems to good advantage, the official Rodong Sinmun daily newspaper reporting that he had 'laboured on' by visiting various facilities, braving the hot summer weather.
Added to the belief that Kim was still in hospital after having operations on his ankles was the fact that he had missed a regular session of the Supreme People's Assembly in Pyongyang last Thursday.
According to a Seoul government official who spoke to the Chosun Ilbo it was unlikely 'that a young man like Kim Jong-un would have missed the Supreme People's Assembly just because he has gout.'
His absence from the assembly was followed by a rare admission by State TV which not only showed footage of him limping but also stated that he was ill.
It has also been reported that a team of doctors from Europe went to North Korea recently, leading to suspicion that would have flown half way across the world only to treat someone in high authority.
A political observer in Seoul said the only real way Kim was going to return to health, beat his gout, lose weight and prevent a repeat of his reported fractured ankles was to live a more simple life 'coming down closer to the level of his people.'
Malnutrition is widespread in North Korea and famines often break out in the country, which is still reliant on foreign food aid as a result of economic mismanagement and the loss of Soviet support in the 1990s.