Over the past two weeks there have been increasing speculations over the death of Kim Jong-un following a supposedly failed heart surgery. These assumptions were not confirmed by the North Korean government, which continues business as usual: sending gifts and letters to foreign officials and workers in the name of their leader, Kim Jong-Un.
South Korea also affirms that it has not seen anything out of the ordinary in North Korea, and as always, the country is brimming with propaganda enforcing Kim Jong-Un's cult of personality. The United States also seems to dispel these rumors, stating that there is no sign of Kim Jong-Un being in any danger following his surgery.
So why all this panic, then? It looks like the only reason why the world is agape at the leader of North Korea's possible death is the simple fact he has not made a public appearance in over two weeks. This, along with the fact that North Korea has not responded to these claims. But is this truly enough to warrant global speculation? No, of course, not. There is clearly more to the story. What, then?
The two weeks of absence of Kim Jong-un were not merely normal days -- no, he was missing during the country's most important holiday -- the birthday celebration of his grandfather Kim Il-sung, which was April 15th. This, together with the fact that Kim's surgery was set on April 12th, set alight the rumors in South Korea, China, and the United States alike. None of this can be confirmed, naturally, but its implications would be extremely significant.
In short, Kim Jong-un's successor is unknown to anyone outside (and very few people inside) of North Korea, and this vacuum in global politics could prove to be very unsettling. Would it be his sister? His father's half-brother? Definitely not his uncle, who he murdered in 2011 as he was seen a potential threat to his rule. This lack of certainty brews unrest worldwide, and as rumors previously established on the state of North Korea have been disproved time and time again, there is no power outside of North Korea which can claim with any assurance what its future holds.
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The New York Times: Kim Jon-un's Absence and North Korea's Silence Keep Rumor Mill Churning for a very skeptical outlook on the veracity of the rumors.
The Washington Post: Kim Jong-un's train spotted at coastal resort, intel reports scotch death rumors for a more confident post on the rumors falseness.