Did Tweeting Break News of Kim Jong Un’s Death?

 

Update (5:16 EST): Minutes ago, CNN reported that U.S. intelligence has actually been looking into rumors of Kim Jong Un’s death for the past week. An unnamed official claims that all evidence points to Kim Jong Un still being alive, specifically citing the lack of troop movement. From the article:

“The official pointed out that even during the recent peaceful transition of power, there were signs of troops being put on a higher state of alert.”

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Update (3:30 EST): Rumors are still flying, but Forbes had an update a little after 3 that links to a translation of the Weibo tweets that started the chatter (warning, the translation is less than perfect, but to help you out, Jong Un appears to be translated at Jinzhengen). The story is reportedly as follows: multiple assassins barged into Jong Un’s room, shot him, then were shot themselves by bodyguards.

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This is an ongoing story, so check back in the comments and original post to find updates. Earlier today, the Atlantic was reporting that Weibo – China’s version of Twitter – was reporting the death of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Un.

It appears that he was in Beijing, and while at the North Korean embassy in the capital city, the report went viral on Weibo that he was assassinated. As of 1 pm EST, the Atlantic updated that no major news sources are reporting the alleged death.

However, given China’s tight control of media and information, the more obvious news is that there is no news.  While reports of death may be an exaggeration, maybe the general story is not too far from the truth. If there was not even an assassination attempt, why wouldn’t the government immediately correct the misinformation? Certainly, China has a recent history of supporting the North Korean dictatorship. If something has occurred that might destabilize it, it would be to China’s advantage to control and spin whatever information they decide to part with.

How reliable has Twitter proven itself in the past for breaking the latest news? Reuters has a great list of news that Twitter scooped, including Osama bin Laden’s death, and the announcement for Prince William’s wedding.

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While we sit back and wait for corroboration to this news (makes an interesting argument for the continuing relevance of major news sources like Reuters, AP, etc.) we can also reflect on what the possible death of Kim Jong Un would mean. In less than 2 months, has the son shown any signs that he might be a better leader than his father?

On December 21st, 2011, ABC was claiming that Kim Jong Un remained shrouded in mystery. They reported that in South Korea, Kim Jong Un was rumored to be brutal. An alleged teenage friend stepped forward and painted a different picture. Joao Micaelo claimed he played basketball with the future dictator “80 percent of [… the] time,” and another classmate claimed he was always “good for a laugh.”

The New York Times is reporting that on January 11th, 2012, Kim Jong Un hinted at being open to negotiations regarding the country’s nuclear program. On the other hand, all his hinting will matter very little if the military does not support his policy choices. That lack of military support has also been conjectured to be a cause of today’s allegations.

The Daily Mail has a nice piece on Kim Jong Un’s school days, but offers little to even give a glimpse at what type of leader the boy would become.

—Photo: Flickr/Wander Dorneles Mariano

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About John Dwyer

John Dwyer is the co-editor for The Strip (adult language but SFW). Learn more about him on his website or contact him through email, Google, and Twitter.

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