North Korea's been owning headlines for the better part of a month now with its threats against the American imperialists and friends. Kim Jong Un, however, has been less conspicuous. In fact, the country's supreme leader has basically been absent from the public eye altogether, so much so that there are whispers of a coup. That hardly seems likely based on what we've seen the North Korean army doing on the ground, but it's curious nonetheless.
It's not entirely out of the question for Kim Jong Un to lay low. He's called a "strange hermit king" for a reason. However, it's kind of an important moment for North Korea. In recent weeks, the country's repeatedly threatened a nuclear attack on the Untied States and most recently aimed its guns at Japan. Kim Jong Un's been checked out, though, and some say it's all a part of the intimidation strategy. Kim hasn't been seen in public since April 1, when he led a session of parliament. Pyongyang's been busy in the meantime, shutting down factories, prepping for a fourth nuclear test and moving missiles towards the U.S. South Korea's Yonhap news agency says that the leader's absence amounts to "psychological warfare that could grab attention from South Korea and the United States."
Quite frankly, the fact that Kim Jong Un is scarce lately is a lot less frightening than the fact that North Korea is threatening to launch a nuclear bomb at the United States. Again, he's known for being hermitic, and with so many foreign intelligence agencies breathing down his neck, now's probably not the best time for the young dictator to go on long walks alone. It's pretty likely that Kim will come out of hiding soon, as the anniversary for his grandfather Kim Il-Sung is right around the corner. In the meantime, as secretary of state John Kerry tours the region, experts suggest that he's backed himself into a corner. "His father and his grandfather always figured into their provocation cycle an off-ramp of how to get out of it," Adm. Samuel Locklear III, the commander of U.S. troops in the Pacific, told Congress last week. "It's not clear to me that he has thought through how to get out of it."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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