Kim Jong Un is reportedly dead. The Supreme Leader of North Korea has passed away, per a story from TMZ, based on information sourced from Weibo (Editor's note: TMZ has updated its story to reflect that the outlet has not confirmed the reports of Kim's passing). Kim has led the nation, known officially as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), since 2011, when he succeeded his father Kim Jong Il. Kim is the grandson of the nation's founder, Kim Il Sung, and only the third leader in the DPRK's history. According to a Japanese magazine cited by TMZ, the North Korean leader's condition worsened following a failed heart surgery.
The announcement comes following a flurry of conflicting reports surrounding Kim's health. On Monday evening, reports began to circulate that Kim was in "grave danger" following a previous surgery and that the American government was monitoring his health, per CNN. However, South Korean officials responded to the news by saying "no unusual signs supporting reports about his health conditions have been detected."
Since then, as The Inquisitr detailed, several reports from the region have suggested that Kim's health had taken a turn for the worse.
Kim Jong Un Succeeded His Father, Kim Jong Il, In Late 2011
Kim Jong Un's early life is often characterized as mysterious. His official birth date is contested, although most observers believe him to have been born in the mid-1980s. Kim was born to father -- and then-North Korean Leader -- Kim Jong Il, and mother Ko Young Hee, an opera singer.
Following the death of his father, Kim Jong Il, in December of 2011, Kim Jong Un became the North Korean head of state. Per BBC, the younger Kim wasted little time in launching a series of rocket and missile tests, and while many other nations perceived these launches to be problematic, North Korean officials offered a different version of events.
According to Biography.com, Kim Jong Un was unafraid to remove all political opposition to his rule after having taken office, reportedly executing those who posed a threat to his power. Among those who were reportedly arrested and executed -- or thought to have been assassinated -- in connection to Kim Jong Un are his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam. The former man had served as a trusted confidant and advisor to Kim Jong Il, and the latter had long been critical of Kim Jong Un's leadership of North Korea.
Kim Jong Un notably engaged in peace talks with President Donald Trump and President Moon Jae In of South Korea, and also hosted iconic basketball player Dennis Rodman during his tenure.
Kim Yo Jong Rumored To Be A Potential Successor
As reports surrounding Kim Jong Un's apparently failing health began to gain ground in recent days, several outlets began asserting that Kim Yo Jong would be a likely successor. As The New York Post details, Kim Yo Jong is considered to be a power broker within the North Korean political apparatus, having both some degree of experience -- she served as both chief of staff, and as a trusted ally, for her brother's administration -- and a familial connection.
Some analysts assert, however, that Kim Yo Jong may not be as likely to succeed Kim Jong Un as one might think, largely due to the fact that North Korea is a comparatively patriarchal society. Kim Yo Jong's status as a woman may be problematic in terms of her ascendancy to the nation's seat of power, per these observers.
Given that Kim Jong Un's wife, Ri Sol Ju, would ostensibly face the same cultural barriers in any attempted ascension -- and that, per The New York Post, she has accrued no substantive political power during her years at her husband's side -- the list of potential successors grows shorter. In addition to Kim Yo Jong, another sibling -- Kim Jong Chol -- could also be considered to lead. However, given that Kim Jong Il had chosen Kim Jong Un to lead, expressing a preference over Kim Jong Chol, the latter man is not considered to be a likely candidate to assume the mantle of supreme leader.
Another possibility exists: Kim Jong Un is believed to have fathered at least three children, although details concerning his potential progeny remain scarce. Another potential scenario may see one of these rumored children named as the next supreme leader, with a regent acting in the child's stead until they reach adulthood.