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MIT Technology Review

What Kim Jong-un’s stool might reveal, if he would only let us take a peek

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The North Korean leader arrived in Singapore for tomorrow’s summit with Donald Trump accompanied by his own portable toilet “to deny determined sewer divers insights into to the supreme leader’s stools,” according to South Korean media.

Really? Maybe. We aren’t able to verify the toilet story. Yet the dictator’s paranoia isn’t entirely unfounded. Here’s what an adversary’s urine or stool could tell you.

1. Is it actually him? If North Korea’s dictator sent a look-alike to the negotiations table, the contents of his porta-potty could reveal it. That’s because stool and urine are among the four body fluids and two cell types that scientists routinely use to profile a person’s DNA, according Karl Reich of Independent Forensics in Chicago. The others include blood, semen, saliva, and skin cells.  

Famously, the US is said to have tested Osama bin Laden’s DNA to confirm his death.   

2. Is he sick? If Kim had advanced cancer, whatever he leaves in the toilet would reveal it. Similar to blood tests called “liquid biopsies,” both urine and stool will show the presence of cancer.

3. Is he on Prozac? Popping opioids? Taking insulin? In high-stakes nuclear disarmament talks, any insight into an adversary’s physical or mental state could be valuable—so checking his excretions for the metabolites of drugs could tell you what he’s taking, and maybe how he’s thinking.

4. Is he paleo? According to the J. Craig Venter institute, the billions of bacteria in the gut can also offer insights into a person’s life, behavior, and diet. The ratio of germs like Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes could tell you if Kim eats his fruits and vegetables or follows one of those diets fashionable in the decadent capitalist West.

Would such clues matter enough to hide your poop? “You can imagine that in a negotiation, any lever or information that you have about your negotiating partner could be an advantage,” says Reich. “But it’s pretty paranoid.”