North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is missing. Is it a problem?

As Kim Jong-un is “missing” there are many speculations surrounding what is going on in North Korea. But one thing seems obvious to me. Though Kim is invisible (for whatever reason) the regime is working without visible problems. Do you agree or do you see some cracks in the regime? Read few comments.

Virginie Grzelczyk, Lecturer in International Relations, Aston University

As you have stated, it appears that King Jong Un is missing, and is also appears to us that the country is still functioning.

This would appear to reinforce the thesis that North Korea is controlled by an elite group and not solely by Kim Jong Un, and one could also suggest that most of the inner-workings of the regime and of that particular elite group are actually the real political power in North Korea, with Kim Jong Un being only a figurehead. This has already happened in the past with his father Kim Jong Il: indeed, from mid-2008 on, Kim Jong Il was noticeably absent from media (for medical reasons as was later known) and North Korea released a number of pictures in November to show that Kim was still ‘on board.

It wasn’t until 2010 that Kim Jong Il reappeared in the public eye with  a visit to China. So, the North Korean elite has managed leaders’ ‘absence’ in the past, and I would not be surprised if Kim Jong Un would reappear in a number of months. The death of Kim Jong Il and the apparent peaceful transition (or at least the lack of an all-out civil war) seems to show that there is control and that the elite can manage transitions.

Perhaps in the case of Kim Jong Un, legacy has not yet been imprinted on people’s mind and he might be seen as more ‘disposable’ than Kim Jong Il who, though he was not as liked by the people as his father Kim Il Sung, had many more years to establish his presence within the system.

Brian Myers, Associate Professor/Department Chair, Dongseo University

I would agree that so far, we have seen no visible signs of unrest. Let’s remember that Kim Jong Il was very ill and frequently absent from public view for his last three years in office, and there was no unrest then either.

I do find it odd that the regime has not published at least a photograph of Kim Jong Un sitting up in a chair reading a newspaper, which would put to rest all the crazy rumors we are now hearing in South Korea, like the rumor that he has Ebola virus. But the nightly news announcers seem to enjoy reporting on the bouquets of flowers being offered by diplomats with “get well” wishes, so it may well be that the regime feels that the leader’s ill health could be an issue bringing the people together, and inspiring sympathy with their leader.

Charles ArmstrongProfessor of Korean Studies in the Social Sciences, Department of History, Columbia University

I don’t think there is any problem that in the regime.  Most likely Kim is ill or injured and recovering. North Korean media doesn’t want to show the Leader as “weak” in any way.


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