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Is Kim Jong-un dead, hiding from coronavirus, or completely fine? An investigation

ICYMI, Twitter has been rife with speculation over the weekend that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is dead.

Apparently he hasn’t been seen since April 11.

kim jong-un

Is Kim Jong-un dead? Hiding from coronavirus? Hanging at his holiday house? We investigate the claims that have been spreading like wildfire.

The news first surfaced after a South Korean-based website, the Daily NK, reported that Kim, who is in his mid-30s, had required urgent heart surgery due to heavy smoking, obesity, and fatigue. According to the site, the intelligence came from a North Korean informant.

A few days prior to the report, Kim had also failed to turn up to the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday (also the country’s founder) on April 15, which is the most important national holiday in North Korea, known as Day of the Sun.

Media outlets in both Hong Kong and Japan began to report that he was in a vegetative state following botched heart surgery. In turn, these rumours spread across worldwide news outlets, with CNN reporting that he was in “grave danger”.

On Saturday, news that China had sent a team of medical experts to North Korea was reported by Reuters. Fake images of Kim’s funeral even began to circulate on Twitter.

From holidaying at his beach-side resort to hiding from coronavirus to being in a vegetative state or dead – the rumours continued to fly, with many eyeing up his sister as a potential replacement. Experts have predicted that she would be even more hard-line than her brother.

Now, after everything, a top South Korean official has come out and told CNN that Kim is “alive and well”.

“Our government position is firm,” Moon Chung-in described to CNN. “Kim Jong Un is alive and well. He has been staying in the Wonsan area since April 13. No suspicious movements have so far been detected.” 

Whilst no-one still seems quite sure what is going on, the uncertainty around the whole matter has elicited some fairly entertaining responses. References to the 2014 film The Interview, (in which James Franco and Seth Rogan assassinate the North Korean dictator on orders from the CIA) were rife:

Others latched on to the vegetative state rumours:

Some just commented on the absurdity of the whole thing:

Other’s joked about not believing the news until it was announced by the Korean Central Television presenter Ri Chun-hee (who reported on the deaths of Kim’s father and grandfather), and who is known for her overtly passionate presenting style:

Some linked Donald Trump’s comments from Friday’s press conference where he suggested injecting disinfectant as a treatment against coronavirus:

And others just created strange mashups between Kim and Trump:

As always, the internet remains in complete entropy. We’ll keep you updated on more as it unfolds.

Next Up: The most batshit conspiracy theories about the origins of coronavirus