Foreign Affairs, Governance

Kim Jong-un Killed? No, but Worry Still

Kim Jong-un Assassinated? No, but Still Reason to Worry

A fake report about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by a female suicide bomber from a secret Pyongyang brothel set the Twittersphere on fire late June 16 and early June 17. The South Korean Ministry of National Defense denied the veracity of the report during an official press briefing on June 17, 2016, but not before the news temporarily impacted the South Korean stock market and money exchange market. The value of the South Korean won against the dollar temporarily dipped and the stock of at least one defense-related company soared. News of Kim Jong-un’s (fake) death was also a top trending item on the most popular South Korean web portal, Naver, with at least 127 related news stories posted in a short 24-hour period.

If a fake story about the death of Kim Jong-un can have this much impact on South Korean markets imagine what a similar scenario would do to the security of the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia. What would happen if a sudden contingency scenario broke out in North Korea? What if a series of events quickly snowballed into a sudden unification of the two Koreas?

The unknowns surrounding the longevity and predictability of Kim Jong-un as a leader, as well as the recent increased tempo of North Korean provocations, puts into stark relief how little we really know about contingencies for instability and unification on the Korean peninsula. This is why CSIS is starting an innovative and new project, titled Beyond Parallel, which seeks to increase transparency and understanding about Korean unification.

In the first ever project of its kind, CSIS presents a unique interactive web-based platform that seeks to deliver greater clarity and increase knowledge to policymakers, strategists, and opinion leaders about Korean unification. The project will also focus on the issues intrinsic to long-term planning rather than the short-term specifics of any particular unification scenario. Beyond Parallel will create new datasets, use new analytical tools, present new satellite imagery, and present analysis from around the globe on the challenges and opportunities associated with Korean unification.

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