Kim Jong Un arrives in Pyongyang and waves to a crowd as he disembarked from his train [KCNA via Reuters]
Reuters

A torrent of speculations has continued to trail the unusual “disappearance” of North Korean’s helmsman, the all-powerful Kim Jong Un.

The North Korea’s number one man’s absence from the public eye has metaphorically become a life support to many popular rumour mills across the world.

Pundits across the globe have continued to dish out not-too-clear analyses of why Kim has chosen to remain in the background.

All the while, authorities in the country have dismissed the rising rumour on Kim’s absence as a mere machination of the country’s adversaries, or worse kept mum on the matter.

In January this year, the North Korea’s supreme ruler nose-dived into the unknown for 21 days from January 26 to March 22. This was followed by a three-week long muted disappearance in April.

Amidst continued speculation over his health or power struggle within the country’s inner circle, on November 15, the dictator made his third appearance after 25 days in only-God-knows-where.

From being absent at an important parliamentary meeting to his absence from the state’s media and a hiatus in official statements and public events, the rumour on internal strife and Kim’s physical ailment has continued to file up like a child’s Christmas wish.

Some think Kim’s mysterious disappearance and the unbroken silence on the part of the country’s media as an alleyway ushering the world to an arena to witness a slow but painful death of one of the world’s most secretive dynasties.

According to such speculations, if what the world thinks of North Korea presently turns out to be true, which may not be the case, the inevitable collapse of the nation is imminent.

What Brought Kim Jong Un to the limelight of the world?

Series of incidents culminated and shone the light on the supreme leader of the Democratic Republic of North Korea.

First there was a war of words between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. North Korea had accelerated the timeline for its missile development with ICMB tests then followed an accusation of dealing in drugs.

Then the US’s unilateral sanction descended upon the state in addition to about a dozen of resolutions by the UN sanctioning it for developing nuclear weapons.

Yet, each of the first three countries in global power ranking, namely America, Russia and China has, for good or bad, accorded respect to the 36-year-old paramount leader.

During Kim’s first visit to China in 2018, President Xi Jinping of China met his North Korean counterpart six times in two day. This has surpassed the entire hospitality China’s leader accorded to any foreign leader.

In 2019, Russia’s Putin called the DPRK leader a “statesman quick in judgment, quite resourceful, refined and seasoned” and a leader whom he was most desirous of meeting with.


North Korea has been a great threat to US’s allies and interest in East Asia or the Korean Peninsula. This forced the US to station a significant percentage of its forces in South Korea and Japan.

Singapore Summit doused the tension between the so-called “poster child for rogue states” as western media love to call it, and the US. Kim’s words at the summit earned him Trump’s thumbs up.

Does Kim’s incapacitation mean an end to DPRK?

Pundits yet raise the question of who will succeed the paramount ruler at the state of incapacitation as being speculated since he is seen as the heartbeat of North Korea.

The truth is that North Korea is not a one-man show as many of those analyses mistake it for.

Such speculations may not pass the test of time considering how Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who ruled the country from 2009 to 2011, turned things around despite the catastrophic economic crisis at the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, upon which North Korea heavily relied.

The dynasty is bound by the chords of that mythological Ideology of “Mount Peaktu” that gives the regime legitimacy to state over individuals.

What Experts Say on Kim’s dramatic disappearance

According to John Edward Philips, a professor of International Society, nobody knows the inner circle of North Korea.

Philips said: “It could be that the regime is consumed with internal matters that would include not only the pandemic, but dissent, economic collapse, or even internal struggles within the regime. Nobody knows.

“It could also be that they don’t want to struggle for attention when the pandemic and the US election is eating up all the air in the room. They got what they wanted out of Trump, attention and legitimacy in the form of a series of summits. They dumped him right after that, having no further need of him. They may have nothing to gain from further publicity right now.”

Philips added that the regime may just be waiting for the US and Japanese transitions to finish, waiting to see what the new President and the new Prime Minister decide to do.

However, it is not yet Uhuru, as Jesse Johnson of The Japane Times opined recently, as Kim may have lay in wait for the inauguration of Biden to release what he has in store for America.

The only question the world should have troubled itself with is “when is that going to happen?”

Johnson added that Kim had directed his countrymen to begin an 80-day battle to resuscitate the country’s “sanction-hit” economy to prepare for any eventuality including COVID-19 and natural disaster.

In sum, Kim Jong Un’s choice to be out of the centre stage may be a clever attempt to gauge the circumstances especially before Biden’s inauguration to draw a befitting plan to cut his own path.

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