Kim Jong Un, North Korean Dictator, Reportedly Dead at 36

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has reportedly died at the age of 36, according to Hong Kong Satellite Television (HKSTV) via International Business Times. A vice director at HKSTV, who is notably the niece of a Chinese foreign minister, cited a "very solid source" saying the infamous leader has died. The report has taken off on Weibo, the dominant social media platform based in China. The HKSTV report also comes as Chinese medical professionals reportedly traveled to North Korea in order to provide medical care to Kim, per Reuters. The Japanese magazine Shukan Gendai also ran a report detailing that a stent procedure on Kim allegedly went wrong. North Korea has not confirmed the news as of press time.

CNN earlier reported that he was in "grave danger" after undergoing surgery. His death comes also after NBC News correspondent Katy Tur tweeted, then deleted, that Kim was "'brain dead,' according to two US officials." She reported that he slipped into a coma after undergoing cardiac surgery. Minutes later, Tur deleted the tweet "out of an abundance of caution."

Very little specifics were known about the dictator's condition, given how the nation controls any intelligence surrounding its leader. The state-run media also makes it difficult to obtain any information about the situation whatsoever. Kim was last seen publicly on a broadcast on April 11. However, just four days later, he was apparently absent at the nation's most important holiday, the birth of the country's founding father, Kim Il Sung.

John Delury, a North Korea analyst at Yonsei University in Seoul, explained to The Guardian why North Korean officials likely kept details about Un's conditions away from the public. "When the leader is somehow physically incapacitated, they can't show him off as they like to. The regime is incredibly image-conscious. It choreographs everything, especially when it comes to the leader. Kim is a young guy, and you don't want to see a young guy in that condition."

Kim Jong Un first became North Korea's leader after his father, Kim Jong Il, suffered a heart attack in 2011. Prior to his passing, Kim Jong Il also took a notable absence from public life in 2008 when he was missing from North Korea's 60th-anniversary parade. As with Kim Jong Un, Kim Jong Il's absence caused many to speculate about the state of the leader's health. After it was later revealed that he had suffered a stroke, he reportedly suffered a decline in his health before his passing three years later.

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In addition to the lack of free press, the dictatorship Kim Jong Un inherited is known for severely limiting information to its citizens through every means available. It's also known for persecuting its critics and placing them in a justice system marked by prisons and labor camps where whole families are persecuted for the crimes of one person.

Kim Jong Un was also a regular talking point for President Donald Trump, who reportedly spoke of a nuclear-free treaty with the dictator back in 2019, though that never formally came to pass. Kim Jong Un also boasted a longtime friendship with former NBA star Dennis Rodman, who had previously claimed he could de-escalate tension between the two countries.