Enlarging images and applying filters on images Kim Jong-un appear to show additional “noise” around parts of his body and noticeably around his ears.
Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, said: “Over the past few years, we noticed that Kim Jong-un’s ears often appear to have been altered along with other aspects of his appearance.
“We think these are just cosmetic alterations—changes to help Kim look a bit more handsome than he is in real life, much like a wedding photographer might make. He doesn’t like his ears, or so it seems.”
Mr Lewis’ observations have also been backed by James Schmerler, a research associate at James Martin Centre for Nonproliferation Studies.
Sharing an image on Twitter of the North Korea dictator, he said: “Sometimes we see editing in pictures of Kim Jong-un – particularly around his ear.”
In one photo, when enlarged, it clearly shows the original outline of Kim’s ear as a silhouette.
While in others forensic software filters, although not conclusive, reveal large amounts of chrominance noise around Kim’s ears and other parts of his body – suggesting they may have been altered.
Mr Lewis added: “For Kim and his ears, what struck us was not any single picture of him, but the totality of them.
“Images of his ears did not always show signs of alteration, but they did often enough that it caught our attention.”
Using a forensic software called “Tungstene”, Mr Lewis and colleagues uncovered digital alterations – “mathematical artefacts in the image file” – in North Korea-produced photos.
Tungstene uses a series of filters to reveal anomalies including colour fluctuations, cloned pixels, compression or sharpness.
The news comes after the tyrant launched a crackdown on fat jokes last year after the despot leader revealed to officials that he was insecure about his ballooning weight.
According to spies within Pyongyang, Kim had ballooned to 20 and a half stones (130 kilograms) after gorging on food and drink.
With a love for European treats, the dictator apparently drinks up to 10 bottles of French wine a day and loves scoffing Emmental cheese.