Is The President Of North Korea Alive Or Dead

North Korean Rumors Get Darker

Rumors surrounding the life and death of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un are as dark as they are persistent. According to various media reports, Kim is not only alive but also in grave health, with some speculating that he is dead.

The last time Kim was seen in public was April 11th 2020 and the lack of any subsequent sightings gave rise to claims and conspiracy theories of is his health and whereabouts. In April last year a Japanese tabloid the Shukan Gendai published a piece which claimed that Kim had succumbed to cardiovascular surgery.

The story made waves in the international media and in response North Korean’s state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun responded swiftly, lambasting the reports as fiction. ‘We emphatically deny such malicious smears.’ It’s likely that the North Korean denied the article because of its sensational content, as well as for fear of it compromising Kim Jong-un’s reputation.

Given the Kim family’s reputation for secrecy, verifiable news from North Korea is scarce and hard to come by. This state of information limbo has been further aggravated by the suspension of commercial flights out the locked-down nation. Thus it is no surprise that rumors regarding Kim’s life and death continue to circulate.

Ultimately, no one can say definitively that Kim is alive or dead without proof. Although it is possible that Kim Jong-un is in poor health, many experts believe that the president of North Korea is still alive. The political analyst Satoru Miyamoto of the East Asia Institute believes doing so would be to their advantage. ‘If Kim is truly unwell or dead, it would not be advantageous for the North Korean government to make this known’.

Those are the perspectives of many North Korean experts, however each of us have our own theories with backing – if not outright proof. Pyongyang’s attempts to show stability will likely only work if there is someone at the top that is orchestrating this. Claiming death would be too big of a risk to take when it could easily backfire and happen far too soon.

But without any verified evidence, speculation in connection with the president of North Korea’s life and death reigns supreme. That won’t stop people in the media, particularly in the West, from playing a guessing game as to what is really happening. With North Korea’s famously poor communication skills and tendency for embellishment and censorship, it’s likely that questions surrounding if Kim Jong-un is dead or alive will linger until further notice.

Censorship of North Korea Media

The media in North Korea is strictly controlled and any news coming out of the country is heavily censored and manipulated. Recent history shows that the North Korean government does not take well to criticism or free thinking. Various media outlets have been banned for any hint of criticism about the North Korean government, for example the BBC was banned in 2009 after it aired a controversial documentary about Kim Jong Il.

In 2018, a crackdown on freedom of speech saw 300 foreign journalists arrested while covering a military parade in Pyongyang. This has left foreign media with limited sources of information to work with, or else they face the very real possibility of being arrested and imprisoned. Given this news blackout and the general lack of access to accurate, up to date information, it is no surprise that wild speculation has taken root among some media outlets.

In April 2017, South Korean intelligence sources claimed that Kim Jong Un was nowhere to be found after undergoing surgery and that he was in critical condition. This news spurred a wave of speculation among international media, which put great pressure on the North Korean government. In response North Korea resorted to censoring articles, tightening security at key points and by temporarily blocking Chinese mobile networks in the country in a bid to control the spread of ‘fake news’.

The North Korean government continues to try and control the spread of speculation and manage public opinion. This means that determining the truth about the situation is almost impossible and that it is likely too dangerous for any North Korean citizen to attempt to do so.

The implications of Kim Jong Un’s death or incapacitation would be far-reaching and unpredictable, especially considering the role that he has played in North Korea’s government and economic policies. The lack of reliable news updates has left citizens and the international community in the dark and with feelings of uncertainty and fear.

Outside Perspectives on North Korean Media

The media in the West has taken up the task of uncovering what is really going on in North Korea amid the lack of reliable news coming from the country. Western news outlets such as the BBC, the Guardian and Al Jazeera have all reported on Kim Jong Un’s health and whereabouts, sifting through a variety of sources in an effort to shed light on the North Korean regime.

Many ‘speculators’ have put forth different theories surrounding the president of North Korea’s health, with many making claims and predictions about Kim Jong Un’s death. It is clear that international media is both concerned and captivated by the North Korean president’s absence. The lack of verifiable news from the North Korean government has left many curious, but the truth is that only they know the truth.

It is difficult to decipher whether speculation is truly baseless or actually valid. Certain reports have been confirmed and subsequently denied, while others are seemingly impossible to confirm either way. As such, determining the truth of the situation is almost impossible without any access to the inner workings of Kim Jong Un’s regime.

Ultimately, the only reliable source of news on the president of North Korea’s health and whereabouts is the North Korean government themselves. As with all authoritarian regimes, verifying even the most basic information is hard, steering media outlets towards speculation and rumour which is then used to flesh out the bigger picture.

Uncertainty of the North Korean People

The apparent uncertainty surrounding Kim Jong Un’s health has left the people of North Korea in a state of confusion and fear. Under Kim Jong Un’s control, North Korea has had a period of relative stability and political security. His regime does not take kindly to dissent and as such, there is no safe place for North Koreans to speculate about their leader’s health in public or online.

For those living in North Korea, thoughts of their leader’s health and whereabouts are often kept quiet. Those who do open up and express concern are at risk of being targeted or arrested by the authoritarian regime. As such, many North Koreans remain silent and instead cope with this uncertain situation in private.

The lack of reliable news from North Korea has made it difficult for citizens to assess the true state of their leader’s health. Uncertainty over Kim Jong Un’s health and whereabouts has caused a state of fear and confusion in North Korea, as the communist nation waits for the nation to emerge from the shadows.

Such speculation has a great impact on residents of North Korea, as they are left in a vacuum of information where only speculation is possible. Nuclear disarmament initiatives in the region, power structures and overall stability -all are left to the mercy of whatever information can be procured.

Ordinary North Koreans, however, largely maintain a wait-and-see approach and thus the official positions of the government are not seen as reliable. This leaves the citizens vulnerable to rumours, some of which fuel back to North Korea, infecting the few outlets of real journalism with panic.

Conclusion of International Experts

International experts struggle to draw conclusions on the chaos surrounding the North Korean president. Without evidence from the North Korean government, much of the speculation, reports and theories will remain just that.

The lack of communication from North Korea has left the citizens and international press to speculate and wonder about the president’s whereabouts and condition. This has left many with a sense of unease and has caused power structures, without a clear leader, to be weakened and left precarious.

The truth of the matter is that only the North Korean government knows the truth of the matter. Until they come forward with some kind of statement, the international community will continue to speculate. As long as Kim Jong Un remains absent and out of the public eye, these questions are likely to remain unanswered.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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