A media report that Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, deposed her brother in a coup and replaced him over the summer has been shot down by South Korea’s National Intelligence Service on October 24. An American tabloid called The Globe said that Kim Jong-un’s sister led a coup against Kim Jong Un between May 6 and June 5. The Globe article stated that Kim Jong-un, who has shown a marked weight loss in media photos, is really an impostor.
Is Kim Jong-un Alive or Dead?
This is not the first time that Kim Jong Un has been rumored to have died. He was allegedly in a coma in 2020 and reportedly perished. But, as has happened many times before, the mercurial North Korean Supreme Leader was photographed in September at what has been described as a military exhibition or parade looking thinner and in good spirits in an image released by North Korean state-run media.
Sister Kim Yo Jong Consolidates Power
The leader’s younger sister, Kim Yo Jong, is often the subject of palace intrigue. North Korea’s propaganda arm, the KCNA, said Kim Yo Jong was named to a key power position on the State Affairs Commission in September. Kim Yo Jong has long held an enigmatic Rasputin-like advisory role to her brother and is often seen as his heir apparent. Her promotion to North Korea’s State Affairs Commission is the highest rung of power that she has climbed so far. She previously was elected to the Supreme People’s Assembly in 2019 and visited the South in 2018 during the Winter Olympics.
Independent information from North Korea is notoriously difficult to corroborate and often devolves into speculation that the South Korean government has to eventually refute. For example, in July the National Intelligence Service had to put another rumor to rest that claimed Kim Jong-un was sick and not attending to his leadership duties. Kim, a known binge drinker, eater, and smoker, is often the target of speculation that he is in ill health. He has been absent from public appearances in the past fueling rumors of his demise. He has been seen limping, which may be the result of swelling feet and gout.
Reported Coups Should Be Met with Skepticism
Obviously, anything printed by The Globe, and other tabloids such as the National Enquirer, should be taken with a grain of salt. It is interesting that South Korean intelligence assumed the rumors of a possible coup against Kim Jong-un should be taken seriously. It does stand to reason that Kim’s sister is likely next in line to power. The 37-year-old Kim Jong Un is reportedly distrustful of many aides and regularly fires, jails, or even kills unlucky staff, diplomats, and generals who run afoul of the regime.
Kim Jong-un recently said he wants his country to have an “invincible military.” The Hermit Kingdom has boasted of recent successful tests while showcasing hypersonic, cruise, ballistic, and air defense missiles. Over the summer, Kim stated that he wants his country to be ready for both “dialogue and confrontation” with the United States. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is attempting to come up with a novel approach to diplomatic relations with North Korea.
1945’s new Defense and National Security Editor, Brent M. Eastwood, PhD, is the author of Humans, Machines, and Data: Future Trends in Warfare. He is an Emerging Threats expert and former U.S. Army Infantry officer.