North Korea is yet to confirm the reports, but many have been speculating over the country’s leader Kim Jong-un and whether he is still alive or not. This rumour started when a video titled Our Beloved Supreme Leader Comrade Kim Jong Un passed away during on-the-spot guidance circulated in the area of North Korea bordering China. Local authorities are still trying to determine how the video entered the country in the first place.
The five-minute clip features the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun, the memorial of the founder of North Korea Kim Il-sung, South Korean online newspaper Daily NK reported. The video alleged that Jong-un died during a guided field trip on 25 April. Is it true, is Kim Jong-un dead? Here’s what we know so far.
Many have declared that the scenes shown in the video are actually from a previous ceremony that commemorated former leader Kim Jong II’s death. And although the footage may not be authentic, it certainly has not stopped the rumour from spreading like wildfire.
Although it is prohibited to openly discuss the video in North Korea, it is known that the authorities have created a special unit from the Organization and Guidance Department, the Public Prosecutors’ Office, the MSS and other law enforcement agencies to identify the leak.
Kim Jong-un has not been seen since 11 April when he last presided over a politburo meeting. Since then, many have speculated that he has died following complications from heart surgery earlier in the month.
No one can say for sure whether this is true or not, as Kim was reported to have gone for heart surgery on 12 April, which many believe could have prompted him to miss a celebration in honour of his grandfather’s birthday at Kumsusan Palace of the Sun.
This means that, although the media in North Korea is still reporting on the leader’s activities, it has not been able to release any recent photos or videos that prove he is alive.
If Kim Jong-un is in fact dead, it would beg the question of who would replace him. Many have already suggested that his sister Kim Yo Jong, who currently serves as the first deputy director of the North Korean communist party’s propaganda and agitation department, will now take over.
This could be a possibility as Jong-un’s own children are still too young to take over with the eldest, a girl, thought to be around 10 years old. But even though Yo Jong has the pure blood of the Kim family, is already a member of the government and clearly has the trust of her brother, it would be surprising for a traditionally male-dominated country such as North Korea to accept a woman as leader.
Other rumours mention Vice Chairman Choe Ryong-Hae, rumoured to be the father in law of Kim Yo Jong and Kim Jae-Ryong, the Premier of North Korea who has risen up through the ranks of government and assumed a high profile role in the military.
It is impossible for now to tell whether Kim Jong-un is still alive or not, just like it is impossible to predict who will take over if he is dead. Only time will tell.
On what seemed like a typical start to the weekend, I, like many others, was searching for what my usual Friday night takeaway would be. Inspired by Michelle Chai’s tweet asking others to make their weekly takeout an East Asian choice, as her family business, like so many other local restaurants, was suffering due to the racism that developed along the coronavirus outbreak, I was flicking through a vast amount of choices—ironically during the heights of stockpiling.
Did I want Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai? Were there any halal Korean places near me? I thought. I could do with a piping hot bibimbap. That’s when I looked up to see my mother’s concerned face. She asked if I was really going to get a Chinese takeaway in the midst of everything. I deeply sighed yes. That’s when I realised that coronaracism was affecting everyone, whether they noticed it or not. Here’s why now is the time for ethnic minority communities to come together.
In my mother’s defence, as an excellent cook who is against any takeout regardless of what’s happening in the world, she would have questioned me the same any day of the week. Yet her moment of ignorance as a South Asian immigrant woman represents an amalgamation of overconsumption of hysterical news, political divergent tactics onto minority East Asian communities as well as good old fashion immigrant fear. It pushes people into thinking that they have to take a step back or they will somehow also end up in the ‘firing line’.
Though her momentary slip—and it was a moment because who can say no to bibimbap?—was not malicious nor vindictive, it was a snapshot of ethnic minorities falling into the trap of distraction via racism. My mother, among many other people, is not blaming leaders who are in charge of our safety and security nor is she questioning why we’re still having to pay mortgages when countries like Italy paused all mortgage payments due to decline in work but instead is looking to turn away from each other in a time of need.
A key explanation I gave my mother about why it’s so integral we support East Asian businesses (not just Chinese businesses but also Vietnamese, Cambodian and Malaysian ones as racism has a history of being dumb and presumptuous) was the thousands of Indian restaurants that were affected by the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Indian restaurants, owned by Muslims or not, were left empty because customers didn’t want to support their businesses. Regulars consciously moved away from them in case they were mistaken for being terrorist sympathisers and therefore personally viewed as less American or British.
In China, Islamophobia is currently at an all-time high and the country has recently been called out for putting Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. But locals are not the issue here and neither should they be in the UK. It would be a shame to treat people how you have known to be treated.
In an era where marching and activism became ‘cool’, the East Asian community has previously received slack for not participating enough. Whether that’s local politics or speaking up for Black Lives Matter and other people of colour, there seems to be a lack of socio-political engagement. Chinese immigrants are usually perceived as the invisible community, they are seen to be “good immigrants” writes Wei Ming Kam in The Good Immigrant. They are “sensible, quiet, shy” so they “integrate well” but these model minorities are “not seen as humans, because we never get to be complex individuals. Our defining characteristic is generally our foreignness.”
Regardless of how well you may assimilate into western cultures, blame can always be misplaced. When President Trump calls coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus’ on Twitter, we’re watching a community being used as a scapegoat in real-time when we all know that viruses don’t discriminate and definitely don’t take your ethnicity into consideration. There are many more examples that can highlight this racism in times of crisis.
As ethnic minorities, we might feel that the ‘easy thing’ to do would be to align with white supremacy and point the finger at China in hopes that for a moment racism will forget about us and our own battles. However, what this pandemic has taught me so far is that it’s an opportunity to offer generosity. We need to form a bridge where there have been cultural and religious differences and not remain silent because we are the first ones to know exactly of the consequences when no one is on the other side—how terrible it can be when the rest of humanity decides to stay quiet.
In the meantime, my last advice for you is to order that Chinese takeaway while also educating your older parents on why they shouldn’t worry about their health when eating Chinese food and why they need to support their local businesses. We can be a part of the rise of communal aid. Show them that when we don’t give into fearmongering, we stop accusing each other and get to the real work of rebuilding society. We take away the power over us and foster relationships that will last beyond any virus outbreak.