Between the lines: The fact remains that if Kim really were ill, we likely wouldn’t know unless the regime wanted us to.

Before the announcement that Kim Jong-il had died in 2011, Pak says, “it looked on the surface like things were fine” — even to the CIA.

Kim Jong-un himself disappeared for over a month in 2014 before returning with a cane.

It’s unlikely that China and South Korea have knowledge of Kim’s current health status either, Pak says.

The big picture: The cult of secrecy is not intended only for the outside world, she says.