North Korea’s Kim Jong Un is either dead, brain dead or just fine, depending on which Asian media report you believe.
The dictator, nicknamed “Rocket Man” by President Trump for his love of missile launches and nukes, underwent a stent procedure earlier this month that started a swirl of international speculation.
A Hong Kong broadcast network claimed Saturday that Kim died, citing a “very solid source.”
A Japanese magazine, meanwhile, reported late Friday that he is in “a vegetative state.” On Kim’s home turf, the North Korean media has acted as if everything is perfectly normal.
Other unconfirmed reports, attributed to senior Community Party sources in Beijing, claimed Kim succumbed when his surgeon botched the minor operation because his hands were shaking so badly.
The portly leader’s absence from Saturday’s much-ballyhooed 88th anniversary of the birth of the Korean People’s Revolutionary Army further fueled the death talk.
The whispers grew louder when China dispatched medical experts to help treat Kim, Reuters reported Friday.
One Chinese medic told the Japanese magazine that the leader clutched his chest and fell to the ground on a visit to the countryside earlier this month. A doctor accompanying Kim performed CPR and took him to a nearby hospital, where apparently the procedure was performed.
“When it comes to North Korea you can never be too sure until you hear the news from the country itself,” said David Maxwell, a North Korea specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. “But it’s worth noting that there are 6.5 million smartphones in North Korea now and even though the coverage is within the country, information has a way of getting out faster now than it did in the past.”
Maxwell theorized the coronavirus could have been a contributing factor if Kim turns out to be dead, especially since he has underlying conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. North Korea has claimed zero COVID-19 cases but could be lying, Maxwell said.