Is North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un Dead or Alive? - Answers

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Is North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un Dead or Alive?

Map of North Korea
Image showing map of North Korea along with its supreme leader Kim Jong-un

North Korean defector-run media “Daily NK” ran a single-source news story saying that the Supreme Leader of North Korea Kim Jong Un has been left incapacitated after undergoing heart surgery at the Hyangsan Hospital on April 12, 2020 (Sunday). Reports say that the cardiovascular system procedure on Kim was carried out because of “excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork.”

The source also said that the current North Korean leader is now out of the hospital, and the doctors are taking care of his health at the Hyang San Villa, which is located near the hospital.

Once this news was circulated, soon reports about Kim’s death started pouring in. The rumor mills started working overtime after he recently missed his grandfather’s birthday on April 15, 2020. His absence from the birthday celebration not only raised many eyebrows but also raised speculation about his well being.

Social media was abuzz with the speculations that Kim Jong Un was brain dead, sick with COVID-19, in a state of coma, and with varied more health conditions. Some US news agencies also started running stories on potential successors such as Kim Jong Un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong (the most powerful woman in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).

However, it has now turned out to be significantly exaggerated. The US intelligence sources have reportedly has indicated that Kim Jong Un’s health is currently in “grave danger” after the heart surgery.

When asked about the genuineness of the reports, a US official reportedly said that the concerns regarding Kim Jong Un’s health are true. When asked about the severity of his health condition, the US official said that it is hard to assess. Kim was reportedly seen 4-days before the April-15 celebration at a government meeting.

National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien has said that the United States is keeping a close eye on the issue and Kim’s health and the reports regarding the current North Korean leader’s health.

A US defense official said late on Tuesday that the US military assessment indicates that Kim is not incapacitated. However, he also added that the US government is still examining reports of Kim’s poor health condition.

US President Donald Trump said: “I wish him well.” He went on to tell the reporters at the White House that he has a good relationship with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
This uncertainty regarding the health of the North Korean leader also took place on November 16, 1986, when news broke out that the then North Korean leader Kim Il Sung was shot dead. No information was there on the following day.

However, the confusion was done away with on November 18 when Kim Il Sung was seen shaking hands with a Mongolian delegation that visited Pyongyang. It was the first time that the western world was taken completely off-guard by the news of the then North Korean leader’s death.

US President Donald Trump has suggested on April 23, 2020, that the report regarding the severe illness of Kim Jong-un is incorrect. During a White House press briefing while answering a question on Kim’s health, Trump said: “I hear the report was incorrect. I hope it was an incorrect report”.

It is still not known what the health condition of the current North Korean Supreme Leader is. No matter what his health condition is, let’s check the biography and critical timelines of the North Korean Supreme Leader, Kim Jong-un.

Who is Kim Jong-un?

Kim Jong Un was born to North Korea’s former leader Kim Jong-il and his mistress and an opera singer Ko Young-hee.

Here are some quick facts about his personal life:

Date of Birth: January 8. His birth year is still unavailable. The birth year is either 1983 or 1984. He is in his mid-30s.

  • Name of Father: Kim Jong Il

  • Name of Mother: Ko Yong Hui

  • Name of Wife: Ri Sol Ju

Children: Kim has three children with his wife Ri Sol Ju. While the eldest child is a boy, the second child is a girl. The gender of the third child is still not known. One of Kim Jong Un’s child is named Ju Ae.

Education: Kim Jong-un has studied at Kim Il Sung Military Academy from 2002 to 2007.

Kim Jong-un assumed power in 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong-il. After assuming power, he implemented some economic and agricultural reforms. However, his regime is also known for human rights violations, as well as the brutal suppression of opposition.

Kim has made it a point to continue developing North Korea’s nuclear capability as well as the development of missile technology, no matter what may. Due to his insistence of empowering his country with missile and nuclear prowess in relation to the firearm capabilities of South Korea, the international community has not only condemned the repeated act of missile testing by North Korea but also imposed international sanctions.

However, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had announced his intentions of becoming more cooperative with the international community. Kim held historic meetings with his South Korean counterpart President Moon Jae-in and American counterpart, US President Donald Trump, in 2018.

Kim Jong-un’s Early Life

Kim Jong Un is the 3rd and youngest son of the then North Korea’s military and Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il, who ruled North Korea under the Communist Worker’s Party from 1994 to 2011. Kim Jong Un is the 3rd generation leader of the powerful Kim-family. His grandfather was Kim Il-sung, who ruled North Korea from 1948 to 1972.

Kim Jong-un was born to Kim Jong-il and his former mistress (who later became Kim Jong-il’s 3rd wife) and a popular opera singer Ko Young-hee. He is the youngest of the three children and was probably born either in the year 1983 or 1984.

The political analysts believe that Kim Jong-un was initially not believed to take up the mantle of his father. Kim Jong-nam, his older half-brother, and Kim Jong-chol, his older full brother, were ahead in the race of succession. Jong-un’s chances improved after the deportation of Kim Jong-nam in May 2001 and the reported “unmanliness” of his middle brother Kim Jong-chol.

Kim’s mother Ko Young-hee was believed to be the most favorite of the three wives of the then-Supreme Leader Kim Jong-il. It was she who campaigned for Kim Jong-un’s succession after Kim Jong-il’s term. Ko Young-hee also went on to call her son, the “Morning Star King.” She died in 2004.

Kim’s father reportedly started to take a special liking for him as he saw a temperament in young Kim that is similar to him. As North Korea is a highly secretive country, almost no information gets out. Though Kim Jong-un studied at the Kim Il-sung Military University in Pyongyang during the mid-2000s, many believe that he was educated abroad in Switzerland before joining the military university.

His father Kim Jong-il started to prepare Kim Jong-un for succession and be the next Supreme Leader of the country back in 2010, especially in the wake of his deteriorating health.

Reports suggest that Kim Jong-un had accompanied Kim Jong-il in August 2010 during his visit to China. It is from this trip that Kim was widely seen as the apparent heir to his father.

Kim Jong-un assumed power in December 2011 when his father passed away. At the time of assuming power, Kim Jong-un was in his late-20s.

Timeline of Kim Jong Un’s Rise & Consolidation of Power

April 2009:

Kim Jong Un was named to the National Defense Commission of North Korea.

September 28, 2010:

  • Kim was promoted to 4-star general and also named Central Military Commission’s vice chairman.

  • He was also promoted to the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea.

October 9, 2010:

  • The eldest son of Kim Jong Il, Kim Jong Nam, openly opposed the hereditary transfer of power for the 3rd generation during an interview on Japan’s TV Asahi. Kim Jong Nam made this comment after Kim Jong Un was promoted.

December 17, 2011:

  • North Korea’s the then-Supreme Leader, Kim Jong Il, passes away at the age of 69 years.

December 28, 2011:

  • During the funeral procession, Kim Jong Un accompanies Kim Jong Il’s body through Pyongyang.

December 31, 2011:

  • Kim Jong Un assumed the North Korean army’s command.

  • The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that the transfer of power would be completed on October 8, 2011.

April 15, 2012:

In Pyongyang, Kim Jong Un addressed hundreds of North Korean troops and many other officials for the first time to celebrate the birth centenary of North Korea’s founding father and his grandfather, Kim Il Sung. This was his first televised speech after Kim assumed power.

June 6, 2012:

  • Kim Jong Un delivers his 2nd public speech. The occasion was the 66th anniversary of the Korean Children’s Union. He spoke to tens of thousands of children in Pyongyang during the occasion.

July 18, 2012:

  • Kim was conferred with the marshal title of the army. The announcement was done after the army chief of North Korea was removed. It was one of the many moves taken to reconfigure the North Korean military’s top ranks.

March 2013:

  • As a part of reconfiguring his public persona, especially to the world, Kim hosts Dennis Rodman, the former NBA basketball star.

September 8, 2013:

  • Rodman makes his 2nd trip to North Korea and, after returning, describes Kim Jong-un as “a good dad.” He also says that he held “baby Ju Ae.”

January 8, 2014:

  • An exhibition match was held between the team of former NBA players led by Dennis Rodman. Rodman even sang “Happy Birthday” to Kim Jong Un before the match started.

March 9, 2014:

  • Kim Jong Un was elected as the Deputy of DPRK’s SPA (Supreme People’s Assembly) with a reported turnout of 100%.

September-October 2014:

  • Kim reportedly undergoes a cyst surgery from his right ankle and disappears from public appearances for 6-weeks.

July 2015:

  • South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said on record that since assuming power in December 2011, Kim Jong-un executed around 70 officials.

December 10, 2015:

North Korea’s state media, KCNA, claimed that DPRK has successfully added a hydrogen bomb to its nuclear arsenal. However, observers say that such advancement for North Korea is unlikely.

July 6, 2016:

On the ground of alleged complicity in human rights abuses against common people of North Korea, the US administration under former President Barack Obama imposed sanctions on Kim Jong Un and ten other officials from the North Korean regime.

September 21, 2016:

The Defense Minister of South Korea, Han Min-Koo, said that the country had put elite troops on standby to take down North Korean leader Kim Jong Un if South Korea feels threatened by the nuclear weapons of North Korea.

December 29, 2016:

A think tank in South Korea published a report that explained how Kim Jong Un held on to power by executing his detractors. The report claimed that in a span of 5-years, 340 people were executed by North Korea’s Kim administration.

January 1, 2017:

Kim Jong Un addressed the nation and claimed that the country is now ready for the beginning of the intercontinental ballistic missile test.

February 13, 2017:

His brother Kim Jong Nam dies at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport due to poisoning. South Korean intelligence agencies later said that it was Kim Jong Un, who ordered his elder brother’s assassination.

September 22, 2017:

  • The US and North Korean relations hit a new low when the then newly elected US President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy” DPRK if the US needs to defend either itself or any of its allies. In a rare direct statement, Kim retorted by saying that the US President Donald Trump will pay dearly, and he will surely “tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.”

February 10, 2018:

  • Kim Jong Un’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, visited South Korea’s presidential palace and, on behalf of the DPRK, invited the South Korean President Moon Jae-in to travel to North Korea. It is the first time in over 65-years (since 1953 when an armistice was announced) that a family member from the ruling Kim-family of North Korea visited South Korea.

March 8, 2018:

  • The White House said in a press briefing that the US President Donald Trump has agreed to meet and discuss issues with the North Korean leader.

March 25-28, 2018:

  • The Chinese state media confirmed that the North Korean leader Kim Yo Jong had made a sudden and surprise visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing. It was Kim’s first journey abroad after assuming power in late-2011.

April 18, 2018:

  • The US President confirmed reports that CIA Director Mike Pompeo visited North Korea and met the Supreme Leader. The media later said that Pompeo visited North Korea over Easter weekend.

April 27, 2018:

  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in held a day-long summit and pledged through Panmunjom Declaration formally ended the Korean War. The declaration also called for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

May 26, 2018:

  • Kim Jong Un held a surprise second meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the Demilitarized Zone after the US President Donald Trump called off a summit with Kim on June 12.

June 12, 2018:

  • A historic meeting took place between the US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. It is the first time an incumbent leader of the DPRK held a meeting with the US.

  • The joint statement said that US President Donald Trump pledged to provide security guarantees to North Korea, and in return, Kim pledged to “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

September 18-20, 2018:

  • The 3rd summit between the South and North Korea top leaders in 2018 took place in Pyongyang. It was the first time since 2007 that a South Korean leader visited North Korea.

February 27-28, 2019:

  • A summit was held between North Korea’s Kim and US President Trump in Vietnam’s Hanoi. While North Korea pressed for the lifting of all US sanctions, the US insisted on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula first. The Hanoi summit ended with no joint declaration.

April 25, 2019:

  • Kim Jong Un met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Russia’s Vladivostok city. It was the first-ever bilateral meeting between the two leaders. In their brief statements, the leaders said that they exchanged opinions on the Korean conflict and went on to thank each other for attending the summit.

June 30, 2019:

  • The North Korean Supreme Leader greeted US President Donald Trump in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Kim also welcomed the US President to enter North Korea, and Trump took 20-steps inside DPRK, making Trump the first sitting US President to enter North Korea.

April 20, 2020:

  • The United States said that their intelligence is investigating the reports suggesting that Kim Jong-un has been incapacitated after cardiac surgery. The US officials later said that the information about Kim’s health was credible, but the severity of his health is not yet known.

April 21, 2020:

  • A US defense official said late on Tuesday that the US military assessment indicates that Kim is not incapacitated but went on to add that the US government is still examining reports of Kim’s poor health condition. The US President Donald Trump also wished the North Korean Supreme leader well and also vouched about his “very good relationship” with Kim.

  • South Korea’s presidential office has downplayed the rumors of Kim Jong-un’s severely ill health. South Korean presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok said that no notable developments or emergency reaction had been detected inside North Korea, especially if there would have been any serious health issues of DPRK’s top leader. It later emphasized that Kim Jong Un was supposedly living in an undisclosed location outside the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, with some close confidantes.

April 23, 2020:

The US President Donald Trump suggested that the report saying Kim is incapacitated is incorrect.

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