There’s been panic buying in the capital, where locals are stocking up on everything from laundry detergent and rice to electronics to liquor. They started snapping up all imported products first, but in the past few days there’s been a run on domestically produced items, too, such as canned fish and cigarettes.

Helicopters have been flying low over Pyongyang, sources have told me, and trains within North Korea and also over the border in northern China have been disrupted…

I’m always very cautious with these kinds of rumors, given the number of times they’ve turned out to be wrong. The short answer right now is: I don’t know. None of us will know until either North Korea tells us or he waddles back into view.

This time, however, the rumors feel different. The talk that Kim Jong Un had some kind of heart surgery has had a stubborn persistence, making the real question his condition.