There is no dearth of rumours and conjectures pertaining to North Korea and its 30-something leader Kim Jong-un, given the highly secretive nature of the regime.

Now an audio forensic expert from rival South Korea claims Kim could be suffering from kidney problems.

Cho Dong-uk, a professor at Chungnam State University, told a local daily that Kim's recent New Year's address indicates that his kidneys are not functioning as well as his other internal organs.

Analysing Kim's speech from a medical perspective, Cho paid close attention to the vibration, noise and amplitude of the dictator's pronunciation of several consonant sounds. The analysis included jitters, shimmer, noise-to-harmonics ratio and voice "energy", added Cho.

"One cannot judge the functions of Kim's internal organs using such an analysis, but according to the results of his New Year's performance, one can understand that the kidney functions are weaker than those of other organs," the professor was quoted as saying.

In his New Year's address, Kim revealed he has a ready-to-reach nuclear button on his desk and insisted that North Korean nuclear-tipped missiles can strike the US mainland.

News about Kim's poor health is not entirely new as there have been several reports in the past about his obesity. Reports from South Korea frequently speculate on Kim's health, ranging from insomnia to over-eating.

In November 2017, photographs released by state-run news agencies showed Kim had gained several kilograms as he appeared in public after a brief gap. This sparked rumours that he must have undergone a surgery. Some experts also opined that Kim's weight gain must have been a tactic to look more like his grandfather Kim Il-sung, the founding father of North Korea.

North Korea Kim Jong-un
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's health has often been a subject of speculation KCNA via Reuters