on the 25th of April, 2020 an article by TMZ was published, titled “N. KOREA DICTATOR KIM JONG-UN REPORTEDLY DEAD …After Botched Heart Surgery”. The article talks about Un being seen supposedly clutching his chest in the countryside, and consequently needing a stent procedure on his heart. TMZ’s source for such a world-changing event was simply a report on an Asian social media app called Weibo, with the niece of a Chinese minister being the primary source of the story. Not only were there article, but several falsified images of Kim on his deathbed. The resulting story even made it’s way to trusted news sites like CNN. leading to confusion about the state of Kim Jong-Un’s health. Not long after, North Korean official posted a video revealing Kim Jong-Un was still alive, it became clear that this was another fake news story.
The origin of the story, claiming that Kim Jong-Un was in a grave state, was from a rumor website based in south Korea “Daily NK”, they claimed that Kim was “recovering from an unspecified “cardiovascular procedure”(Farhi). Daily NK had first posted their story on the 21st of April, 4 days before TMZs article. The daily NK article stated that Kim had undergone aa recent surgery in Pyongyang according to an unknown source. They also pointed out the fact that he had missed a celebratory ceremony for his deceased grandfather on the 15th of April(Ah). Not even 10 minutes after the Daily NK article was posted, it was picked up by CNN politics.
CNN’s article, “US monitoring intelligence that North Korean leader is in grave danger after surgery”, covers topics mentioned on the Daily NK article. Talking about the thing the original article discussed, adding on that North Korean officials gave no comments on the status of Kim Jong-Un’s health. The article has a lot of the same talking points as the original Daily NK article, however CNN’s article takes a speculative approach to the situation. To quote the article, “When North Korean leaders have not shown up to these important celebrations in the past, it has portended major developments. But it has also turned out to be nothing”(Sciutto, Jim , et al.)
No less than 4 days after the original article was posted about the supposed heart surgery, TMZ posted the inflammatory article claiming that Kim Jong-Un was dead due to his heart surgery. Their source for the information was an unnamed, “Niece of a Chinese foreign minister”(TMZ) through an Asian messaging app called Weibo. Adding false details to the story, such as the doctor of Kim Jong-Un’s operation supposedly having “Shaky hands”(TMZ). Along with the suspicious TMZ article, Images surfaced on social media of Kim inside of a coffin, which was spread around social medias. The image was an edited photo of his father, Kim Jong-Il in his coffin after his death.
The death of Kim Jong-Un seemed more convincing with each fake news article that was spread, however all of those worries were squashed when North Korean officials posted the video of Kim cutting a ribbon, making his first public appearance after being claimed dead. Celebrity death hoaxes are nothing new, but the fact that this story was picked up by trusted media outlets led many people to be fooled, and it shows the influence that news has on common people. It should be a prime example on why news should be fact checked, and be compared to other sources.
Steinbuch, Yaron. Photo of Kim Jong-Un Photo of Kim Jong-Un in a coffin. “Fake photo shows Kim Jong Un lying in coffin amid death rumors,” by Steinbuch. New York Post, nypost.com/2020/04/28/fake-photo-shows-kim-jong-un-in-coffin-amid-death-rumors/.