Kim Jong-un is not dead, but anyone who went on Twitter on Tuesday was likely inundated with news that the North Korean dictator was killed.
That was the rumor spreading around Twitter on Tuesday, with a fake account pretending to be South Korean defense minister Han Min-goo making the claim that ended up becoming international news. The tweet claimed that a violent coup had claimed the life of Kim Jong-un.
“URGENT. Unconfirmed report from Korean military sources. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has been killed or seriously injured. No details.”
The account has since been suspended, but by that point, the damage was done. The Kim Jong-un death hoax spread quickly across the internet, prompting some to leave condolences, but brought out skepticism in many others.
The Kim Jong-un death rumor comes just weeks after the North Korean leader asserted that his nation had developed the technology to equip small nuclear warheads on long-range ballistic missiles. North Korea’s state news agency reported that Kim Jong-un met with scientists who briefed him on the new technologies.
“The nuclear warheads have been standardized to be fit for ballistic missiles by miniaturizing them,” KCNA reported Jong-un saying. “This can be called a true nuclear deterrent… Koreans can do anything if they have a will.”
Kim Jong-un has been more vocal in recent months about his nation’s military capabilities. In January, the North Korean leader claimed to have successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb and the next month he reported a successful test of a long-range missile. Pyongyang has also issued a series of threats against South Korea and the United States, which the Daily Mail reported is largely in response to the annual war games that the two nations hold.
The United Nations Security Council has responded to the threats, adopting new sanctions and tightening existing ones against North Korea. The sanctions include a ban on all exports along with a ban on certain types of aviation fuel. There is also a total embargo on weapons sales to North Korea.
As the rumor of Kim Jong-un’s death spread, an official North Korean website released a propaganda video showing rockets striking the South Korean vice presidential house and other government buildings in Seoul, the Daily Mail noted.
“The new 88-second video – entitled ‘If the ultimatum goes unanswered’ – showed rockets fired from mobile launchers in the North slamming into the Blue House and destroying the buildings in a ball of fire.”
“It ended with the warning: ‘Everything will turn into ashes.'”
The Kim Jong-un death hoax is one of many fake death reports to spread across the internet in recent months. It has become a regular occurrence for reports to target celebrities and athletes, claiming that they died and fooling people into sharing condolences.
Past death hoaxes have focused largely on celebrities but sometimes on politicians — and sometimes both, in the case of a report last year claiming that actor and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was killed.
The report came from a fake news site (via Snopes) and contained a number of typos, but still managed to go viral.
“Police responded to the L.A. home after receiving a 911 emergency call for a ‘unresponsive male’. Upon entering the residence, police found Schwarzenegger’s deceased body in his bed.”
“‘We found Mr. Schwarzenegger in his bedroom deceased around 9:30 pm on Wednesday,’ said Las Angeles Police Chief James J. Freda [sic] in a brief statement to Local 4 CBS News [sic]. ‘We found no reason to believe foul play was a factor in his death but intent [sic] to perform a full investigation.'”
Officials in North Korea have not made an official response to reports that Kim Jong-un was dead.
[AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon]