The Chinese micro-blogging service Weibo has exploded with rumors that new North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un was assassinated today at the North Korean embassy in Beijing. Twitter death rumors are totally cross-cultural.
The translation provided by Gawker of one of the tweets looked like this:
According to reliable sources, North Korean leader [Kim Jong-Un was killed] in Beijing in February 10 2012, at 2 o’clock and 45 minutes. Unknown persons broke into his residence shot and were subsequently shot and killed by the bodyguard.
I had the same thought as Gawker — rumors from China are about as reliable as rumors of Lindsay Lohan’s conversion to strict Mormonism — and, let’s face it, Gawker is not exactly a solid news organization. It didn’t help that this fake BBC news account put out a confirmation tweet not that long ago (and yep, I fell for it initially. Thanks to tweeps who gently set me straight). We are talking about North Korea and China here. Transparent news reporting is as welcome there as Newt Gingrich would be at the Romney Family Barbecue and rumors can fly around Twitter with the speed of theoretical subatomic particles.
There is a large part of me that suspects this could be a real story. I have no solid evidence on which to base my gut feeling but let me note here that there have been rumors almost from the first day he assumed his father’s mantle that Kim the Younger did not hold the confidence of the old guard leaders around him. His role has been seen by those who know North Korea as well as an outsider can know it as a caretaker for his father’s policies. His own brother said in a recent interview that his hold on power was far from stable. This may all be business as usual in the most repressive nation on the planet, but I’m not sure. I’ve a feeling we’re seeing the faint rippling on a deep pond that belie a large amount of turmoil under the surface. Take that for what it’s worth.