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Posted by on Nov 5, 2014 in Asia Pacific, Featured, Uncategorized |

Rumors of Kim Jong Un’s Disappearance – Question of Control

Rumors of Kim Jong Un’s Disappearance – Question of Control

The month-long absence of the young Dear Leader Kim Jong Un from North Korea’s political scene left many in frenzied speculation about the regime and his health.[1] He was seen last on September 3 at a state concert with his wife Ri Sol Ju, and documented to be limping and sweating. Until October 16, he had skipped all his customary public duties.[2] Despite the fact that Pyongyang officially stated that Kim’s absence was due to an ankle cyst, this unexpected leave from politics had stirred up questions over whether Kim Jong Un is in control of the Democratic Republic of North Korea, and prompted many conspiracy theories about Pyongyang’s current state of political play.[3]

Again, Pyongyang’s response to all these rumors was simple; the Supreme Leader had an ankle cyst removed and needed time to recuperate.[4] On September 6 at the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s meeting, the party announced that the Dear Leader needed time “restore his health”.[5] Many North Korean experts, including Andrei Lankov, professor at Soeul’s Kookmin University, saw this as the dominant theory explaining his nonattendance. “The guy is seriously overweight,” Lankov said.[6] The dictator of the impoverished nation has piled on 20 stone of weight since he came to power, and as a result, increased pressure on and fractured his ankles, said an intelligence official.[7] South Korean and British news agencies blamed his poor health to “massive cheese addiction”, “fried chicken and beer”.[8] Though these health claims were made without any medical evidences, the state-run Korean Central News Agency confirmed that Kim Jong Un has been suffering from “discomfort”.[9] Moreover, The Kim family does have a long history of diabetes and other diseases.[10] This, however, did not put an end to extreme conspiracy rumors.

One of which was that Kim Yo Jong, Kim Jong Un’s little sister, was running the country as a key ally of her brother.[11] The youngest of seven known children of Kim Jong Il has maintained a low profile for much of her life.[12] But since last March, her first official appearance on state television at the Supreme People’s Assembly elections, she built up a more prominent and political profile. [13] According to a Seoul- based advocacy organization, Kim Yo Jong was responsible for the daily affairs of North Korean leadership during Kim Jong Un’s absence, putting her at a senior rank in the Central Committee of Worker’s Party of Korea.[14] Inevitably, she was often compared to her aunt, Kim Kyong Hui, who supported Kim Jong Il during his rule and was widely seen as the most powerful woman in North Korea.[15] Her position and active role hinted at the possibility that North Korea might see a woman take supreme power.[16]

Another popular explanation was a military coup. Jang Jin Sung, a former key member of Kim Il Song’s propaganda machine, asserted in a conference that North Korea is in midst of a civil war. In addition, the Organization and Guidance Department (OGD) has taken full control of the country.[17] He elaborated that a military coup happened in 2013 and that the state is divided between two factions; those who support absolute control of the economy and others who seek private wealth through slightly open markets.[18] Although this is unconfirmed, Jang is not the first to suggest that the real power is under the OGD; the US State Department told reporters Monday that Kim Jong Un is merely puppet and the OGD is “pulling the strings”.[19] Jang believes that this figurehead can be replaced by either of his brothers at the OGD’s will.[20] This opened up the possibility that the OGD ousted the Dear Leader or scripted his public disappearance.

Another rumor was that a major purge has taken place. An intelligence source told South Korea that six high-ranking officials have “disappeared”. This list including the commanding officer of North Korea’s air force, ministers of telecommunications and officials in the sports program.[21] It is normal for the North Korean dictator to take time to carry out major purges. [22] If true, this would be the third purge since Kim Jong Un assumed power in 2011. [23]

One would expect the mystery of Kim’s disappearance to end when he appeared on state media on October 16 to show that his absence was due to a removal of a cyst in his right ankle. However, with a country as opaque as North Korea, these wild speculations can never be answered. The very fact that his absence has fueled such levels of speculations inside and outside of North Korea, and that his reappearance has not put an end to all these rumors, signal the uncertainty of the regime and the lack of assurance Kim has given to his people and the international community. However, one thing that is for sure is that even the Supreme Leader must succumb to the health problems of a calcium-rich diet.

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[1] Beech, Hannah. “Sorry, North Korea Conspiracists: Kim Jong Un Is Probably Just Sick.” Time. October 3, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. http://time.com/3460126/kim-jong-un-north-korea-disappeared/.

[2] “Disturbing New Kim Jong Un Conspiracy Theory Emerges…” The Huffington Post UK, October 3, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/10/03/kim-jong-un-north-korea_n_5926036.html.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Beech. “Sorry, North Korea Conspiracists: Kim Jong Un Is Probably Just Sick.”

[5] Kang, Tae Jun. “Kim Jong-Un’s Sister Takes Control in North Korea.” The Diplomat. October 1, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. http://thediplomat.com/2014/10/kim-jong-uns-sister-takes-control-in-north-korea/.

[6] http://time.com/3460126/kim-jong-un-north-korea-disappeared/

[7] Beech. “Sorry, North Korea Conspiracists: Kim Jong Un Is Probably Just Sick.”

[8] “Disturbing New Kim Jong Un Conspiracy Theory Emerges…”

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Cain, Geoffrey. “Is Kim Jong Un’s Little Sister Kim Yo Jong Running North Korea? – NBC News.” NBC News. October 25, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/kim-jong-uns-little-sister-kim-yo-jong-running-north-n220111.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Kang. “Kim Jong-Un’s Sister Takes Control in North Korea.”

[15] Ibid.

[16] Liston, Enjoli. “Is Kim Jong-un’s Sister Now the Power behind the North Korean Throne?” The Guardian. October 10, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theguardian.com%2Fworld%2F2014%2Foct%2F10%2Fis-kim-jong-uns-sister-now-the-power-behind-the-north-korean-throne.

[17] Hamilton, Keegan. “Former Top Official Says Kim Jong-un Is No Longer in Control of North Korea | VICE News.” VICE News RSS. October 2, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. https://news.vice.com/article/former-top-official-says-kim-jong-un-is-no-longer-in-control-of-north-korea.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Disturbing New Kim Jong Un Conspiracy Theory Emerges…”

[20] Hamilton. “Former Top Official Says Kim Jong-un Is No Longer in Control of North Korea | VICE News.”

[21] Mailonline, Tania Steere For. “Has Kim Jong Un Carried out Another Blood-thirsty Purge? Claims North Korean Dictator Has Executed Six Top-ranking Officials amid Signs He Was Losing His Grip on Power.” Mail Online. October 23, 2014. Accessed October 25, 2014. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2804931/Has-Kim-Jong-carried-purge.html.

[22] Soul, Heather. “Kim Jong-un ‘purge’: Six North Korea Officials Missing for Weeks ‘may Have Been Executed'” The Independent. October 23, 2014. Accessed October 23, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/kim-jongun-purge-north-korean-officials-missing-for-weeks-may-have-been-executed-9812616.html.

[23] Steere “Has Kim Jong Un Carried out Another Blood-thirsty Purge? Claims North Korean Dictator Has Executed Six Top-ranking Officials amid Signs He Was Losing His Grip on Power.”

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