Thanks to an apparent mix-up on Iran's part, a tantalizing story started circulating on Tuesday night that North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un would be taking his first state visit to Tehran this weekend, but South Korean media reported on Wednesday that it wasn't true.
The reports that Kim Jong-Un would attend this weekend's Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran (did you remember to book your tickets?) apparently stem from a misunderstanding on the part of Iranian government spokespeople, who mixed up North Korea's Supreme Leader with its ceremonial head of state, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported: "Iran confirmed that North Korea's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, will attend the summit, the official said, adding the report may be a result of 'misunderstanding' of remarks by a spokesman for the summit quoted in local media." The mix-up came from what sounds like a confusing game of international media telephone.
Both Fox News and NBC News ran stories on Wednesday saying Iranian government officials had confirmed Kim Jong-Un's visit, based on local news reports. Those reports all credited South Korean media including Yonhap and Arirang News, which cited local Iranian media (Yonhap actually cited German wire service DPA, which cited Iranian media). But as Yonhap later explained, the Iranian media had apparently mistook the promise of attendance by a "North Korean Leader" to mean Kim Jong-Un, not Kim Yong-nam. All clear? Good.
A visit by Kim Jong-Un to Iran would be a big deal because it would be his first out-of-state trip as North Korean leader, and would change a precedent set by his father, Kim Jong-il, who almost never traveled abroad (and took an armored train rather than a plane on the rare occasions he did so). But alas, it is not to be, at least this time around.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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