Diabetes? Heart illness? Or is he, like the rest of the country, on “the Mugabe diet” now too?

Readers in South Korea woke up today to frantic speculation about the shrinking paunch of one of the world’s more reclusive celebrities: North Korea’s Stalinist dictator, Kim Jong-il…

“Emaciated Kim Jong-il,” said the headline in the Dong-a Ilbo.

“The 66-year-old North Korean leader looked thinner, with serious hair loss and dry skin,” said Chosun Ilbo, the nation’s leading conservative daily.

Both papers suggested Kim’s appearance confirmed reports, including by The Telegraph, that he had been seriously unwell…

Over the years, while his country has fed on grass and bark as it laboured to overcome famine, Kim, who is 65 by western reckoning, has developed a reputation as a gourmet to match that for carefully calculated diplomatic brinkmanship.

While at first this was put down to western propaganda, reports from former cooks added evidence that is now considered irrefutable.

Would it be wrong to hope that the end is near? Actually, yeah, maybe.