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Schrodinger's Kim

AP Photo/Minh Hoang

Is Kim Jong Un alive or dead? Right now, the correct answer is both.

North Korea is a very odd place where information is just about as isolated and restricted as the people are. Information that comes out of the country amount to mere reports and rumors, not verifiable news. The only time we’ll have verifiable evidence that North Korea’s dictator is indeed dead or alive is when he either makes a public appearance or the announcement of succession is announced.

Thing is, Kim hasn’t been seen for two weeks and this is after it was announced that he had cardiovascular procedure due to  “excessive smoking, obesity, and overwork.” This was around the same time there were rumors that one of Kim’s bodyguards had contracted COVID-19 and that Kim was hiding away.

All of this makes one think. Kim is definitely one of those at risk from the fatal consequences of the Coronavirus and for someone in recovery who is doing well, he’s sure not showing his people that he’s still standing. For the Kim dynasty, image is everything and Kim must look powerful. He has to appear capable of overcoming anything thrown at him or else the image that the Kim regime crafted around the family for generations that held the North Korean people in place will begin to collapse.

The only clue we have that may very well be doing fine is that President Donald Trump seems to have information about Kim that he’s not willing to talk about yet, and Trump talks about him as if things are relatively unstable for the dictator.

“Yes, I do have a very good idea, but I can’t talk about it now,” Trump said during his daily press conference at the White House. “I just wish him well. I’ve had a very good relationship with Kim Jong Un.”

“I hope he’s fine,” he added. “I do know how he’s doing, relatively speaking. We will see. You’ll probably be hearing in the not-too-distant future.”

If we’re to take Trump’s words as clues, it would seem Kim’s status is iffy. Like he’s alive but hanging on by a thread.

Other countries seem to be fairly positive about Kim’s health. This includes South Korean officials who, according to UPI, have said that there’s no indication that Kim is in dire health and he is “alive and well.”

Both South Korea and Trump have much to gain from putting a little positivity on Kim’s status, though. Trump is continuously glad-handing the dictator in order to get him to be amenable to deals. South Korea’s very odd relationship with North Korea make them careful about saying anything that may provoke the Kim regime into any kind of hostilities.

Their positivity should be taken with a grain of salt.

Thing is, no matter how you slice it, this is not going to play out in Kim’s favor. His people are likely dying in multitudes due to the Coronavirus as the country is impoverished and disease-ridden at the best of times. Having missed two very important holidays for the country and not being present during his country’s time of need to boot says many things about Kim’s status but not enough.

North Korea’s government system requires it to look like it has the situation handled at all times but right now it clearly does not. Something is wrong with Kim but we’re not sure the extent of it. It could be planning the succession of its next leader or just waiting to see what happens. Either way, it gains nothing from releasing the truth right now so everything they say needs to be taken with a grain of salt too.

At this time, for all intents and purposes, Kim is both alive and dead.