Update (2252ET): Futures rebounded sharply after South Korea’s Yonhap refuted reports that Kim Jong Un is seriously ill.
Yonhap cites an official as saying there’s no particular sign pointing to Kim Jong Un being in grave danger. The Korean rumor about a coma is exactly the same as one from 2014. While it’s indeed odd Kim didn’t show up on April 15, we should calm down. https://t.co/yZ2tJDC71N pic.twitter.com/Ep5cAlZDs8
— Sam Kim (@samkimasia) April 21, 2020
Update (2240ET): Bloomberg is now reporting that Kim is in a ‘critical state,’ according to a US official speaking on condition of anonymity.
US officials are now studying the North Korean line of succession.
Trump administration officials are looking into who would be in the line of succession if Kim Jong Un dies or is already dead, I’m told.
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) April 21, 2020
S&P futures are sliding on the reports.
Update (2215ET): NBC’s Katy Tur was quick to respond to being scooped by CNN and tweeted the following:
🚨 North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is brain dead, according to two US officials. He recently had cardiac surgery and slipped into a coma, according to one US current and one former US official.
@NBCNews confirms and adds to CNN scoop from me, @ckubeNBC @carolelee”
Only to delete it shortly after:
I’ve deleted that last tweet out of an abundance of caution. Waiting on more info. Apologies.
— Katy Tur (@KatyTurNBC) April 21, 2020
* * *
South Korea’s KOSPI stock market index and the Won are tumbling as uncertainty grows over the health of their northern neighbor’s leader.
Earlier headlines from Daily NK – a website run mostly by North Korean defectors – reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently had cardiovascular surgical procedure and is now mostly recovered, citing unidentified sources inside the isolated state saying Kim is recovering at a villa in the Mount Kumgang resort county of Hyangsan on the east coast after getting the procedure on April 12 at a hospital there.
However, CNN has upped the ante and reported that the US is monitoring intelligence that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is in grave danger after a surgery, according to a US official with direct knowledge.
Kim last appeared in North Korean state media on April 11. April 15 – North Korea’s most important holiday, the anniversary of the birth of the country’s founding father, Kim Il Sung – came and went without any official mention of Kim Jong Un’s movements or explanation of his absence.
CNN notes that Kim Jong Il’s absence from a parade celebrating North Korea’s 60th anniversary in 2008 was followed by rumblings that he was in poor health.
So who to believe – “mostly recovered” from NK defectors or “in grave danger” from CNN’s intel sources.
As Seoul Bureau Chief for VOA, William Gallo tweeted:
Bottom line: there is a hell of a difference between “US officials think Kim Jong Un is in grave danger” and “US officials have read unconfirmed media reports about Kim Jong Un being in grave danger.” We need to know which this is.
The market for now appears to be erring on the side of CNN’s warnings as stocks tumble…
And Korea’s Won hits a two-week low…
We wonder, of course, if President Trump will send Kim a “Get Well Soon” card (and we note that Kim Jong Un is only ~36. His father lived to be 82).