A team of trained ninja assassins snuck into North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un’s room overnight and assassinated the new leader while he was on a business trip in Beijing — if rumors spreading across microblogging service Twitter and its Chinese counterpart Weibo are to be believed, that is.
The rumors — unsubstantiated by any major news service or government agency — started on the Chinese language Twitter clone earlier today, claiming Jong-Un had been killed in his residence.
“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,” one Tweet claimed.
If you believe everything you read on Twitter then you also believe Eddie Murphy died in a snowboarding accident earlier this week. In fact, I’m not sure if the irresistible detail about the assassins being ninjas in the story quoted above actually comes from any Chinese tweets or if it originated somewhere further down the rumor chain. Fox News is the only outlet on Google News that mentions anything about ninjas; this might be a nifty meta-example of how bad information can explode and even end up being amplified in the speed-of-light media circuit.
Gawker notes that a conference celebrating Kim Jong-il was scheduled to begin at the North Korean embassy in Beijing two days ago, which might explain why things there were unusually busy this morning. The Atlantic adds that suppressing news of major events in a roiling Chinese metropolis these days is harder than it used to be thanks to the growing use of social media. If something big happened in a city where millions upon millions of people use Weibo/Twitter, odds are it’ll leak. The only element of all this that gave me pause is that if Kim were to be assassinated, this is the logical place for it to happen. If the coup plotters bumped him off in Pyongyang, some elements of the military might conclude that it was South Korean infiltrators who did it, and that of course would hugely increase the risk of war. In Beijing that’s less likely. Likewise, the NorKs naturally want their citizen-hostages to believe that its borders are impregnable; if Kim is killed in the capital and South Korea is scapegoated, then the leadership is admitting that it’s not omniscient, even when it comes to protecting the life of the Dear Leader. If they do it in Beijing then they can blame weak Chinese guards for the “security lapse.”
But all of that avoids the most basic point: Why would they want to kill him? He’s only 28 and basically a figurehead while the old hands around him run the country. It’d be idiotic to shatter the cult of personality surrounding the Kims by bumping him off when you could just lead him by the nose behind the scenes. Speaking of which, check out this recent Telegraph vid of Kim getting the full Beatles ’64 treatment from students at a NorK military school. Why throw this level of adulation away when it’s such an effective tool for controlling the population?
Update: U.S. officials tells ABC it’s a big nothingburger.