Kim Jong Un’s disappearance is being widely speculated but this is just a recurring script from the North Korean dictator’s playbook.
In September 2014, the global media noticed the disappearance of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un from public view. After attending a concert in Pyongyang, he went missing straight for 40 days. Meanwhile, the world media mulled over Kim Jong Un’s health, whereabouts, possible death, political stance, nuclear control, and what not… Kim Jong-Un re-emerged, alive with a cane in hand and no official explanation.
Heads Up! Kim Jong Un might reappear before you know
- Kim Jong Un has disappeared before
- Intelligence locates Kim’s Train in Wonsan
- US and South Korean Intelligence monitoring Kim
- Kims have a habit of vanishing
Sounds familiar? In the past two weeks of his absence, the question of Kim Jong-Un being dead or alive has spurred similar chaos in the world.
His absence since April 11 is followed by reports of his ‘grave condition,’ ‘cardiovascular surgery,’ possible death, and Jong Un’s possible successor.
The Global Turmoil
When a dictator dies without an heir it leaves a void to be filled by violence and instability. It’s a dangerous thought to entertain that, ‘how the safety issue of North Korea’s nuclear weapons be dealt,’ in times of such a casualty.
The US and China are supposed to cooperate on the nuclear issue in case of any casualty. But what’s more worry some is the ongoing political standoff between Washington and Beijing over COVID-19 outbreak’s responsibility.
On Monday, Donald Trump claimed to have a “very good idea” about how his ‘friend’ Kim was faring. He wished him well but denied any details to the reporters. “I can’t tell you exactly,” He said.
The world is looking at Kim Yo Jong as his possible successor in North Korea. She is a prominent figure in North Korean Politburo has a considerable influence on his brother Kim Jong Un. And most importantly she is the blood and heir of the third generation of the ruling Kim dynasty should anything happens to her brother.
However, being a woman in patriarchal North Korean society she would need to be more than that. To become a dictator of a society ruled by men, she’d need full cooperation from the military, North Korea’s special interest groups in intelligence and, the powerful Workers’ Party’s Organization Department.
No Amount of Intelligence Works Here
The secrecy around every official announcement that comes out of North Korea makes it tangibly impossible to determine the state of its leadership, including their health and whereabouts. The regime has a stronghold on the flow of information. Even neighboring South Korea is unable to create a reliable intelligence network.
That leaves North Korea’s watchers to take all the information with a pinch of salt and build a narrative around satellite imagery. The recent chain of events has been of contradicting reports from US Intelligence and South Korean Presidential office. Coupled with Kim missing April 15 national event and no photographs in papers have sparked a lot of rumors. Everything is just open to speculations but the world doesn’t actually know what’s happening.
This weekend, however, satellite images of Kim’s train were tracked and analyzed by 38 North, a Washington based monitoring group. The analysis suggests Kim Jong Un is taking time out at his compound in Wonsan, on the country’s east coast.
In the case of the death of a leader, North Korea would have shown signs of instability. First, unusual signs in North Korea’s troop movement along the Demilitarized Zone. The second unusual sign would be in the signals intelligence (SIGINT) coming in and out of Pyongyang. And Pyongyang Defense Command comprising about 25,000 soldiers who guard the capital would have shown the signs of dictator’s death.
Till now, the US and South Korea have reported no unusual business in North Korea. “He could very well be OK and reappear in media again but considering his weight and habits… risks linked to Kim Jong Un’s health will sharply increase as he gets older.” Nam Sung-Wook, a former director of a think tank affiliated with South Korea’s spy agency told the Guardian.
The Vanishing Habit of Kims
Withdrawing from the public view or ‘vanishing’ is nothing new for the Kim dynasty rulers. In the past several prominent figures have vanished and remerged from the public view, always without any explanation. But the underlying reasons for their absence have been rather grim.
Long before, Kim Jong-Un’s disappearance and finding if he is alive became mainstream with media attention and social media enthusiasm. His father Kim Jong Il had paved the way for this kind of sporadic public view.
Kim Jon Il disappeared in 2007 and returned after an unexplained prolonged absence, sparking rumors of a heart attack. He again disappeared for a considerable time in the year 2008, again sparking speculations, this time, of a stroke.
When the former dictator actually died in 2011, the world only knew about it two days later.
Kim’s mother, Ko Yong-hui too disappeared in 2004 sparking death rumors. Her death was never officially announced. However, reports later emerged that she underwent treatment for an illness and flew back to Pyongyang and later went into a coma. Afterward, in 2012, Kim built a grave for his mother on Mount Taesong.
Absence doesn’t conclude death
The experts believe that Kim Jong-Un’s death can be a worry for the future but his absence does not conclude ‘grave illness.’ There are already three instances this year when Kim was absent from the public view for over 10 days.
Dead or alive, Kim Jong-Un’s absence fascinates the outside world because of the implication of the instability in the nuclear-armed nation’s geopolitics.
While Kim would be musing on all the media attention he is getting, sitting somewhere in his Wonsan resort, overlooking the beach –which makes him famous. But what makes him dangerous is when the globe realize how a dictatorship without transparency could be a liability to the whole world.