“Kim Jong-un Dead? So Far, All Reports Are Thinly Sourced (That Matters),” published in The National Interest on April 25, 2020
Is Kim Jong-un dead? While there are lots of reports claiming lots of things, here is what we can gather, at least for now:
The reports so far, are thinly-sourced so far. There does appear to be more than one source from which the claims originate. The reports of Kim’s demise have been coming from sources in Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Most are third-hand. As with many news reports coming out of North Korea, they are shrouded in haze and uncertainty.
Here’s what has already been reported by media around the world:
First, South Korean politician, commentator, and sometimes scholar Chang Seong-min alerted the press that one of his sources in the Chinese Communist Party told him that Kim was “virtually dead.” South Korea’s Monthly Choson reported Chang’s claims on April 23, Korea time.
Chang, who has served as an official in the administration of President Kim Dae-jung from 1998-99, hosted television shows, written 11 books and reports on foreign policy, and served on the board of an international forum, received a phone call from one of his sources in China. The source told him Kim was in a coma and it was impossible to revive him. North Korean senior officials were said to have concluded he was as good as dead.
The anonymous Chinese source also reportedly said the United States and South Korea did not have good information, so Chang decided he must tell the public.
Now, there are reasons Chang isn’t the best source. His story about why he agreed to an interview seems just a bit self-serving and grandiose. He has pushed half-backed stories about North Korea in the past, such as the claim that North Korean agents were involved in the 1980 Gwangju Uprising, protests against the Chun military regime that the South Korean military suppressed. His career in politics is checkered: after his one year with the Kim administration, he was elected to the National Assembly in a district in from Seoul in 2000 but removed in 2002 because of election law violations. In 2017, he ran for president and received 0.01% of the vote.
Second, Hong Kong Satellite Television…