Rumor Has It…

North Korea's Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, may be seriously ill.

There’s a flurry of rumors going around that North Korea’s Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Un, is seriously ill. From CNN:

CNN)The US is monitoring intelligence that suggests North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is in grave danger after undergoing a previous surgery, according to a US official with direct knowledge.

A second source familiar with the intelligence told CNN that the US has been closely monitoring reports on Kim’s health.
Kim recently missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on April 15, which raised speculation about his well-being. He had been seen four days before that at a government meeting.
Another US official told CNN Monday that the concerns about Kim’s health are credible but the severity is hard to assess.

USA Today responds that South Korea isn’t concerned:

South Korea’s government said Tuesday it had no information to corroborate a media report suggesting that Washington is monitoring intelligence indicating North Korea’s leader was gravely ill after he reportedly underwent heart surgery earlier this month.

Seoul has not detected any unusual activity or signs coming from Pyongyang about Kim Jong Un’s health, according to Kang Min-seok, a spokesman for the Blue House, the office and residence of South Korea President Moon Jae-in.

South Korea’s statement comes after a CNN report, citing an unnamed U.S. official “with direct knowledge” of the matter, said the U.S. is keeping an eye on intelligence suggesting that the North Korean leader’s health was in “grave danger.” A second official cited by CNN said the intelligence about Kim’s health was credible. The official acknowledged it was hard to assess how seriously ill he may be.

Sidestepping for the moment wisecracks about the lack of novelty in countries’ leaders being braindead, mystery about the goings-on in North Korea is hardly new or surprising. We just don’t know a great a lot about what happens there.

However, a sudden change in leadership in any nuclear-armed country is newsworthy and not particularly welcome under the circumstances.

FILED UNDER: Kim Jong Un, North Korea
Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.

Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Rumors is all it is and South Korea is apparently not believing anything. As a South Floridian and blogger I can remember very well the false postings by blogger Val Prieto aka Babalu saying Fidel Castro was dead. After a while, somebody would write- He’s dead again

    Castro died in 2016. Val was right. 9 years later.

    1
  2. MarkedMan says:

    No comment on this, but it would be deliciously typical if it turns out Un has been dead for a week, catching out Trump’s pathetic lie that the Korean leader had sent him a letter praising his leadership. But of course Trumpers are too feeble minded to connect the dots. They can easily process the one without realizing it gives the lie to the other.

    1
  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I trust the S Koreans. They have the most to lose (or gain I suppose).

    4
  4. gVOR08 says:

    @Bill:

    In other news, General Francisco Franco is still dead.

    5
  5. mattbernius says:

    (A) Welcome back to posting Dave.

    (B) This twitter thread analysis a NORK expert feels right:

    Kim Jong Un’s health status is difficult to report on and corroborate because of the regime’s information environment and the sensitivity of such close-hold information about the top leader. 1/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    Reliability of the info depends on access, while corroboration would boost confidence level of an assessment. So having one source doesn’t mean that we should ignore it but it should be weighed with what we know and appropriately caveated. 2/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    ROK and Ch government downplaying of the reports does not mean that they have more access to Kim. Often they too are scrambling for info. 3/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    Also absence of any unusual activity in North Korea does not mean the absence of the unusual. The regime is stovepiped for a reason—it’s to ensure that the top leader controls the information. Information is power. That’s why the Kim family tries to dominate it. 4/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    If anything, business as usual in NK would point to the resilience of regime mechanisms of control. 5/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    I caution against uninformed speculation. But even though we don’t know exactly what is going on with Kim’s health doesn’t mean we should “calm down” or “relax”. Not knowing doesn’t mean the situation is unanalyze-able. 6/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    Rather this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that Kim isn’t as omnipotent as he wants us and his people to think, and the outsized importance of this single individual’s health on NK stability and regional security. 7/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    I also have thoughts on what Kim probably thinks about succession. But for later. 8/8— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

  6. mattbernius says:

    Welcome back Dave!

    This thread from a NoRK expert strikes me as being a good analysis of the situation:

    Kim Jong Un’s health status is difficult to report on and corroborate because of the regime’s information environment and the sensitivity of such close-hold information about the top leader. 1/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    Reliability of the info depends on access, while corroboration would boost confidence level of an assessment. So having one source doesn’t mean that we should ignore it but it should be weighed with what we know and appropriately caveated. 2/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    ROK and Ch government downplaying of the reports does not mean that they have more access to Kim. Often they too are scrambling for info. 3/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    Also absence of any unusual activity in North Korea does not mean the absence of the unusual. The regime is stovepiped for a reason—it’s to ensure that the top leader controls the information. Information is power. That’s why the Kim family tries to dominate it. 4/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    If anything, business as usual in NK would point to the resilience of regime mechanisms of control. 5/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    I caution against uninformed speculation. But even though we don’t know exactly what is going on with Kim’s health doesn’t mean we should “calm down” or “relax”. Not knowing doesn’t mean the situation is unanalyze-able. 6/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    Rather this is a good opportunity to remind ourselves that Kim isn’t as omnipotent as he wants us and his people to think, and the outsized importance of this single individual’s health on NK stability and regional security. 7/— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    I also have thoughts on what Kim probably thinks about succession. But for later. 8/8— Jung H. Pak, PhD (@junghpak1) April 21, 2020

    [Source first tweet: https://twitter.com/junghpak1/status/1252556281497505797%5D

  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    If true sounds like a botched surgery…
    Can we get those same Dr’s to tend to Trump’s health?

    1
  8. Dave Schuler says:

    @mattbernius:

    Thanks, matt. I have intended to contribute a few quick posts to OTB and this rumor seemed like a good opportunity. Note that I was careful to characterize it as just that. It’s a rumor. As if people don’t have enough to worry about right now there are a lot of them flying around.

    2
  9. Kathy says:

    Isn’t it a feature of Communist leaders that they live for several days past their natural death?

    4
  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    This got me wondering about NK succession issues. A very quick google search on whether Kim has heirs was inconclusive. It appears that he has a daughter, corroborated by none other than Dennis Rodman and there are rumors of a son who would be about 9. The son rumor has been questioned.
    Of course there could be other children out there by various mistresses and women that he’s raped.

    If there is no male heir, that could result in a very nasty leadership fight.

    1
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    I miss the good old days when we could sneer at the Soviet gerontocracy, not to mention their inability to keep essential items like toilet paper on the shelves.

    3
  12. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You don’t miss when Soviet citizens could criticize the US government without suffering adverse consequences?

    1
  13. Bill says:

    @Kathy:

    Isn’t it a feature of Communist leaders that they live for several days past their natural death?

    That’s a bit of an urban legend. Breznev, Andropov, and Cherenko’s death were all reported in the USSR no later than the day after their deaths.

    2
  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    I can only hope Kim is taking Doctor Don’s medical advice. A new study done by the VA of 368 Covid patients: 11 guys with standard treatment died. 28 with Trump’s magic hydroxychloroquine died, 22 with a Z-pack thrown in.

    Why does Trump hate veterans?

    1
  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    Did I tell you I found actual toilet paper on an actual shelf yesterday? I was as happy as a Soviet-era Babushka finding an orange.

    3
  16. Modulo Myself says:

    Off-topic but one of the books I’ve read in quarantine is David Cronenberg’s Consumed. It was published a couple years ago and involves 3d printing, cannibalism, photography, viruses, sex, French intellectuals, and North Korea. If you love Videodrome-era Cronenberg I highly recommend it…otherwise, maybe not.

    1
  17. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Perhaps because he’s a chicken-shit draft evader too gutless to be a conscientious objector or a resister?

    1
  18. DrDaveT says:
  19. EddieInCA says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Come to the valley, Michael. We have plenty of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and rubbing alcohol.

    In the stores, I mean.

    1
  20. Kurtz says:

    @Kathy: @Michael Reynolds:

    Speaking of which, have you seen Death of Stalin? If not, I recommend.

    1
  21. Kathy says:

    @Kurtz:

    Sounds good

  22. rachel says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Yes, but they wouldn’t necessarily admit to being concerned even if they were frantic with worry.

  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @rachel: I’m pretty sure the SKorean govt is capable of expressing concern to their citizens without freaking them out. After all, they’ve been doing it successfully for 67 years while death and destruction lurk as their constant companions just 50 K away.