North Korea's Kim Jong Un: How can a country's leader just disappear? – Angus Robertson

North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has not been seen for two weeks, sparking real fears for the future of the whole region, writes Angus Robertson.

Have you seen this dictator? North Korea's Kim Jong Un seems to have disappeared from public view (Picture: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)
Have you seen this dictator? North Korea's Kim Jong Un seems to have disappeared from public view (Picture: Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images)

What kind of country can see its leader disappear from public view for two weeks without explanation. Answer: a very unusual one.

North Korea is not a normal country. The Stalinist state was viewed as extreme, even by fellow Communist countries before the wall came down.

This cold-war anachronism, which literally imprisons its population, is the personal fiefdom of the Kim family. Kim Jong Un, its portly 36-year-old dictator, is the third generation of his family to run the impoverished Asian nation. While its population often is without food, the Kim regime live in luxury with private trains, planes and special residential compounds with every need catered for. They also now have nuclear weapons.

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The disappearance from public view from Kim Jong Un have caused rumours to go into overdrive in recent days: some say he’s dead while others that he’s had heart surgery.

The South Koreans and Americans claim that nothing is afoot, but given North Korea is hermetically sealed from the outside world it’s hard to know who to believe. The media in Pyongyang has been reporting Kim issuing statements in recent days, but no images of him have been broadcast.

This is not the first time that Kim has disappeared from public view for a longer period. In 2014 he dropped off the radar for five weeks and then reappeared using a walking stick.

None of this would matter much in normal circumstances, but without an obvious successor and a bellicose mindset across its ruling class, there are very real fears about what the future holds for North Korea and the region.

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