The rumor mill over the fate of Kim Jong Un has gone into overdrive, as the North Korean leader hasn’t been seen since April 11 – over two weeks ago. And as the New York Times notes in a Sunday morning report, North Korea’s recent silence on Kim is highly unusual, considering that rumors are flying that their leader is either dead or in a vegetative state after a botched heart surgery.

“North Korea is still sending letters and gifts to foreign leaders and domestic workers in the name of its leader, Kim Jong-un. Its news media brims, as usual, with panegyric propaganda extolling Mr. Kim’s leadership,” reports the Times.

North Korea’s cover story through state-controlled media was that Kim was simply ‘evacuated’ from Pyongyang to the coast in order to better isolate against the spread of coronavirus.

But this official line (or at least one of many official lines) – along with several leaks, including one allegedly from a Chinese medical official with direct knowledge of what happened – has only served to fuel speculation and rumors. In recent days the hashtag #KIMJONGUNDEAD has begun to trend globally.

Here’s a brief rundown on the significant conflicting reports so far:

First, let’s not forget that MSNBC‘s Katie Tur tweeted last Monday – nearly one week agothat “Kim Jong Un is brain dead,” and that both NBC and CNN had confirmed his status. She quickly deleted the tweet “out of an abundance of caution.”

Japanese media: Kim is in a Vegetative State

Reuters: China sent Medical Team

South Korea Government: Nothing unusual

US intelligence: Maybe Gravely ill while Seoul says can’t corroborate

Trump: “I think the report was incorrect.”

Satellite images: He’s outside of compound

Vice Director of Hong Kong Satellite Television (HKSTV): “Very solid source” says Dead

South Korean presidential aide: “Alive and well”

Inside North Korea: Rumors beginning to cause panic as “something has happened”.

Concerning this last report, the rumors have apparently begun to cause a stir among the domestic population.

The Washington Post reports Sunday:

“There’s been panic buying in the capital, with locals stocking up on everything from laundry detergent and rice to electronics to liquor. They started snapping up all imported products first, but in the last few days there’s been a run on domestically produced items too, like canned fish and cigarettes.”

Helicopters have been flying low over Pyongyang, trusted sources have told me, and trains within North Korea and also over the border in northern China have been disrupted,” WaPo notes, in what could be evidence the West is about to hear big news confirmed.

In 2014 Kim disappeared for six weeks, sparking similar rumors. That said, a Chinese team wasn’t dispatched to assess his condition and/or try to save his life – at least not that we’re aware of.


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