US officials have quashed reports that the new North Korean leader has been assassinated in China. The reports have recently sparked a social-network frenzy, but are nothing more than a hoax, according to those in the know.
As the (unnamed) intelligence officers told CNN, they had actively been investigating rumors of Kim’s demise for about a week when the web-o-sphere finally caught up.
And while the CIA was “relatively certain” that it was nothing more than a hoax, the officials did hedge a bit, saying “with that society you can never be 100 per cent sure”, which is why rumors like these spread like wildfire.
With not a lot known about the newly-sworn in Kim Jong-un (other than he is the son of the late Kim Jong-il, who died in December, and that he is in his late 20s), it was not even clear whether the rumor mill was talking about an assassination. Death, illness and odd mistranslations were all possible. But while most news sources refrained from running with the story, it still became a trending topic on social networks like Twitter.
All this was sparked by eyewitness reports of an unusually large presence of cars and people at the North Korean embassy in Beijing. Somewhere, that was misinterpreted as panic and then morphed into the possible death of young Kim – who may or may not have been in China at the time.
US security officials have, perhaps predictably, interpreted the reports as “a calculated effort to disrupt the economy of South Korea at a fragile time by suggesting things are going haywire up north.” But to most people, it is simply Chinese whispers – literally, this time.