The Curious Case of the Maybe Dead Dictator

Instead of reading excerpts from the biography of North Korea’s leader Sung Il Kim and listening to sad music, the news of his death was broken on November 16, 1986. At noon, the usual propaganda praising the genius of North Korea’s leader was not flowing across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing South and North Korea.

On November 17th, South Korea was gripped by confusion as no one knew exactly what had happened and nothing could be verified. The message, which was followed by the lowering of the North Korean flag near the DMZ, was reported on the North Korean news site News NK, which focuses on news about Korea.

The reports of his death were found to be greatly exaggerated. On Nov. 18, while visiting Pyongyang, a delegation from Mongolia was witnessed shaking hands with Kim, who was very much alive. The confusion persisted until that point, with various theories from experts, some more certain than others.

According to intelligence sources cited by CNN, Kim, a brain-dead individual with COVID-19, was reported to be in a “grave danger” situation due to the spread of the virus through social media. The report, which originated from a defector-run media activist in North Korea, mentioned that a similar “case” happened on Monday night, where it was said that Kim is dead and in a coma after undergoing surgery.

“Expressing his thoughts, Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, stated, “It’s a case of feeling trapped. We’ve been confined to this constant stream of coronavirus news for an extended period of time.” After regaining composure, the process of calming down occurred within a few hours, contrasting with the several days it took in 1986.”

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He stated, “We have been hearing about something happening in Pyongyang, North Korea, but there has been little news about it in the past few months. The media has focused on North Korea, but most of us, not just foreign policy experts, have not been informed about this.”

Until any official information is released from Pyongyang, the status of the North Korean leader, whether deceased, seriously unwell, recuperating, or in good health, remains uncertain and is expected to remain so.

The most important day in a single nation’s history is arguably the birth anniversary of Sung Il Kim, the eternal president and founder of the country, which falls on April 15th and is known as “Sun Day.” The only thing we can say is that Kim failed to show up for this significant event.

“According to John Delury, a faculty member specializing in East Asian studies at Yonsei University in Seoul, the absence of Kim Jong Un on his grandfather’s birth anniversary has triggered considerable speculation. This departure from the expected pattern makes it challenging to interpret North Korea, as they typically adhere to certain patterns that shape our expectations.”

Delury is not speculating much on what has happened or what will happen, awaiting more official calls from North Korea before making a judgment. Both China and South Korea have denied reports of Kim being seriously ill.

Kang Min-seok, a spokesperson from the presidential office of South Korea, stated to the global media that there have been no particular patterns observed within North Korea. Furthermore, there is currently no evidence to substantiate the recent reports about the health of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as claimed by certain media outlets.

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Daily NK stated that he indeed had an operation, as the general agreement suggests. He, who could be categorized as “extremely overweight,” possesses an approximate body mass index of 45 and is a frequent smoker, in famously poor physical condition, thought to be 36 years old. Hence, the narrative should not automatically be dismissed and is not entirely unfounded, as emphasized by the majority of observers of North Korea.

Go said, “I don’t think he’s in a situation where he’s about to die, but it’s likely that Un Jong Kim went through a medical procedure. However, I don’t think he’s in a situation where he’s about to die.” Seoul and China have provided this information, but it is not confirmed if Pyongyang is involved.

If Kim were to pass away, what would occur considering that most specialists are cautious about completely disregarding the narrative? However, currently, there has been no abnormal troop mobilization and no sudden rise in communications, which Go mentioned as a sign that no exceptional events are taking place.

Go stated, “It will be a steady period of transition, not an unpredictable one. Moreover, if North Korea were to experience a transition period due to his demise, it would have a significant impact on the system.”

Kim Yo Jong, like Kim’s sibling, has the advantage of being able to assume control immediately, fortunately, and there are limited options for leadership, which only a Kim from the same ruling family can possess an implicit agreement in North Korea.

Unfortunately, analysts say that North Korea is not ready for a woman to lead, however, she has shown that she can be a leader. For example, she has recently been more active in making public statements, denouncing South Korea.

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Un Jong Kim said, “Go find Chul Jong Kim, my brother, hidden until the transition period ends. I believe she will be the real power behind the country or regime. Even though it implies that my sister, the likely candidate, will face difficulties, it is because North Korea is a very chauvinistic society where being a man is considered the ideal leader.”

Delury told us about a subject that provides very little information, but we are making an effort to read everything we can. In fact, it may not mean anything, but it could also mean something. It also says very little in terms of hard information, but we are trying to read everything. And while it may not mean anything, it could also mean silence. So, it took North Korea two days to make the death of Kim Il-sung’s father, Kim Jong-il, public. In such historical moments, we can’t say anything definitive, as there are no facts available.

Delury expressed, “That’s somewhat the subject matter we are discussing.” We begin to inquire, with limited evidence, if this marks the conclusion of North Korea. Consequently, this highly volatile entity on the unfavorable side of history, which we perceive as North Korea, ought not to exist any longer. This perception also aligns with our perspective, you know.

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