Speculation about Kim Jong-un

North Korea's ruler Kim Jong-un has not appeared in public for more than two weeks. Particularly noticeable was his absence from the celebrations on April 15, the country's most important national holiday. Rumours are circulating that Kim is seriously ill, injured or even dead, and that his death is being hushed up to prevent a power struggle. Is something rotten in the state of North Korea?

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Izvestia (RU) /

All just speculation

Commenting in Izvestia, Korea expert Konstantin Asmolov considers the rumors to be irrelevant for the time being:

“It's possible that Kim really is sick. Like his father and grandfather, he has hormone gland problems and probably diabetes, which could explain his obesity. He is also known to be a heavy smoker. But that doesn't mean that every time he 'disappears' he's in intensive care. ... I see no point in speculating at this stage about who could become the new head of North Korea. For the time being this is a deeply theoretical question. ... As long as there is no confirmation of the sensational news about Kim being in a coma it should be regarded as just another hoax.”

The Irish Times (IE) /

Worrying uncertainty

The Irish Times is worried that nobody seems to know just what is going on in North Korea:

“The frenzy of speculation is an indication of the regime's success at keeping a veil of secrecy over its activities and the frustrations faced by foreign governments in monitoring the hermetic state. If the world has little idea why Kim has vanished from public view, it knows even less about any succession plan the country may have in place. Given North Korea's nuclear programme and its hostile posture towards its neighbours, Kim's fate - and the identity of any possible successor - are questions that have a very significant bearing on regional and global security.”

Tportal (HR) /

No change to be expected

Even if Kim should no longer be able to continue conducting government affairs, not much will change in North Korea, Tportal.hr concludes:

“Kim Jong-un did not appear at the ceremony marking the most important North Korean holiday, the Day of the Sun on April 15, the birthday of his grandfather and founder of the state, Kim Il-sung. One can't avoid the suspicion that something is seriously wrong. ... The regime in North Korea has little scope to become more lax without endangering its survival. The same policy can be expected to continue, with or without Kim Jong-un.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

East Asia facing threat of a security crisis

A destabilisation of the balance of power in North Korea would be particularly dangerous in the current crisis, security expert Attila Kasznár writes in the pro-government daily Magyar Hírlap:

“If Kim Jong-un were to relinquish power it would lead to a vacuum that could provoke a security crisis not only in North Korea but across East Asia and around the world. ... In the current global system, which is deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic, an unplanned change in political leadership in the world's last totalitarian dictatorship could lead to a scenario that is anything but desirable.”