Update 5:45 p.m. Finally, some reporting. Even Twitter and Weibo can't out-rumor the intelligence community: A U.S. intelligence source told CNN that they'd been trying to nail down rumors of Kim Jong-Un's death for more than a week by the time the Internet caught up on Friday, and could find no evidence he'd died. Rather, an unnamed official told CNN's Security Clearance's Barbara Starr that intelligence analysis of the rumor had concluded it was a ploy "to disrupt the economy of South Korea at a fragile time by suggesting things are going haywire up north." But the official hedged: "With that society you can never be 100 percent sure," which is why these kinds of unsubstantiated claims grow legs in the first place, as one did Friday.
Update 1:08 p.m. The rumor that Kim Jong-Un was killed (or died, or even that there was an attempt made on his life, or that anything else untoward happened to him) has been out for more than an hour now, and no legitimate news organizations have reported it. So for now it looks like pure fantasy. It's also firmly in Twitter-meme territory. Kim Jong-Un's name is fertile fodder, as @AngryMnkyFight demonstrates: "Kim Jong Un dead or Kim Jong Undead. Remember kids, spacing is the difference between assassinations and zombies." So's the leader's weight, as comedian Chris Jenkins shows us: "Due to mistranslation, there are rumors that Kim Jong Un was assassinated in China. What it actually said was that he assassinated a buffet."
Original: It is nothing more than a rumor, but China's Twitter equivalent, Weibo, posts that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un has died in a possible coup have gone viral and now spread to Twitter. As MIT journalism instructor Seth Mnookin tweeted, "Rumor of assassination also floating around; no confirmation RT @KSHartnett Hearing word of #NorthKorea coup. Kim Jong Un on the run." But everybody with half a brain is treating the rumor with a good deal of suspicion. "Probably fake like last rumor of coup," tweeted Chinese journalist Joe Xu. Still, the closest thing to actual facts to back up the current round of rumors, as Xu mentions is a photo of cars at the North Korean embassy in Beijing, which some are saying is more than usual. "More rumors on
#Weibo dealing with North Korea, usual number of cars at NK embassy, Kim Jong-un assassination attempt, etc," Xu tweeted. Still, as Gawker points out, rumors like this almost always turn out to be false. Kim Jong-un's brother did predict his sibling wouldn't last long. But without any confirmation at all, it's too early to call him prescient.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.