By Adrienne Diaz
Recently, there has been speculation around Kim Jong Un’s health. He failed to attend the celebration of his grandfather’s 108th birthday. Since then, he has not been seen by the public or by anyone outside of his circle of officials for two weeks. His prolonged absence has led people to wonder about what has happened to him.
Many began to question whether he had died or contracted the Coronavirus, and this questioning led to the circulation of rumors and false information. There were even Instagram posts with a picture of the North Korean leader with titles such as “Kim Jong Un has died” and the infamously unreliable TMZ released an article titled “N. Korea dictator Kim Jong-un reportedly dead after botched heart surgery,”although TMZ said that it had not verified the info.
South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has not officially announced Kim’s death, nor have they announced any specifics besides that he is alive and there are no apparent issues with his ability to lead. North Korea is known for keeping their matters private, therefore South Korea has intel to notify officials of any suspicious behavior.
The Daily NK has reported that Kim underwent a medical procedure, most likely for issues with his heart. This is a reasonable theory for his absence, because he is reported to be a heavy smoker, drinker, and has had ongoing issues with his weight. However, the North Korean state media has not confirmed this statement.
According to the New York Times, South Korean and Washington officials have utilized spy satellites to search North Korea in attempts to find a trace of Kim and his whereabouts. They found a train in Wonsan, a location where Kim has conducted several missile tests, that they believe most likely belongs to Kim. South Korean officials have said that Kim’s use of this location could be to deter speculation about his health and whereabouts from enemies.
This is not the first time Kim has left the public eye for a long amount of time. In 2014, Kim had not been seen by the public for an entire month because he had undergone ankle surgery.
Many have been quick to celebrate the false death of Kim Jong Un, but his death could bring about many more issues. First of all, there is the issue of who would succeed Kim. There is his sister and trusted advisor, Kim Yo Jong, who many believe is the most likely to take over Kim’s position. Kim has an older brother, Kim Jong Chul, but he was already deemed unfit to lead by his father. Because Kim had his half brother and an uncle executed, the final option would be Kim Pyong Il, Kim’s other uncle who has worked as a diplomat and recently returned to North Korea. These are the two choices, unless another military general or official proves themselves better fit to lead North Korea.
With this being said, the U.S. is not exactly prepared for Kim’s death. The Coronavirus pandemic has been the U.S.’s primary focus, as it should be, and the trade war with China has ruptured America’s diplomatic relations with the nation. If Kim is pronounced dead by North Korean officials, then the U.S. needs to be able to work with other countries to deal with a possible influx of North Korean immigrants crossing the border, and figure out how nuclear deals are going to be dealt with depending on who succeeds Kim.