(CNN) North Korean state media reports Kim Jong Un made first public appearance in weeks. (CNN) Will Ripley’s video is cautious. We can go further than that. Kim is likely incapacitated in a way that interferes with his ability to project personal power. Possibilities:
- Slightly drooping lip of partial paralysis, motor impairment and other factors of cosmetic significance.
- Brain fog.
- Major stroke, with aphasia (loss of speech), and altered level of consciousness.
- Persistent vegetative state.
- Brain death.
The nature of the regime naturally includes the body double. This was highly effective before the advent of biometric image processing that can use as input any photo or video. Totality of control prevents detection of the double by excluding all cameras, with separation of the audience by large distance. A body double that passes casual inspection at a distance risks exposure with image processing. The official photo does not count.
So there is more to this than the simple question of whether the event occurred. While North Korea could have simply reported an event that did not occur, it has resources to do much more.
It is the nature of the press to report South Korea ‘s representations that Kim is well at face value, even though Administration sources hint at the opposite. This site is about open source intelligence, so we must note that South Korean statements have no informative value. Their statements could be
- Mandated by source protection, the first obligation of all intelligence agencies.
- Due to faulty intelligence, as is sometimes provided by a double agent.
- Result from faulty analysis.
Hence S. Korean statements to present have no weight in the estimate of this problem. What does?
- Cautious U.S. statements, which, saying less, inform more.
- The non-appearance of Kim in any format accepted as record outside of North Korea.
- Kim’s health history. His smoking, obesity, and metabolic syndrome make him a sitting duck.
- A risk factor of the moment: If Kim contracted COVID-19, he is the picture of a patient with large blood vessel clot disorder. (NPR) Doctors Link COVID-19 To Potentially Deadly Blood Clots And Strokes
- (CNBC) China sent team including medical experts to advise on North Korea’s Kim, sources say.
Long time readers of this blog are familiar with the technique first described by Benjamin Franklin, of counting the pros and cons, with equal weight to each. For an application, see U.S. Strike on North Korea? Prediction Update. Depending upon how you count, there are between 5 and 9 independent pros, favoring Kim’s severe incapacitation.
In spite of the obvious desire of North Korea to contradict this with a “con”, their count is zero. The official photo does not count.
Media have been worrying about the terrible things that could happen without Kim. There hasn’t been any mention of the upside. Who are they kidding? This would be great news for North Korean Munchkins. I’ve got the song ready: