Kim Jong-un may have deliberately faked his own death in an attempt to expose traitors in his inner circle, according to an expert on North Korea.
Ending weeks of speculation behind the disappearance of North Korea's supreme leader Kim Jong Un, a state-run media outlet has released a set of photos and videos of the dictator's visit to a fertiliser factory confirming that their leader is very much alive and well.
The 36-year-old's absence from the birth anniversary celebrations of Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea and his late grandfather, one of the most significant holidays in the country, spurred an explosion of reports over his ill health, with some outlets claiming that the leader had passed away, while others alleged that a botched heart surgery had left him in a vegetative state.
Kim faked his death to expose traitors in his inner circle
Sky News Australia reporter, James Morrow, believes Kim deliberately pretended faked his own demise in order to figure out if there were any traitors in his inner circle. Morrow told viewers that Kim most likely pulled a "classic Stalinist manoeuvre" to see what the response was like to news of his death among his close aides and see who tried to succeed him as the leader of North Korea.
"What has probably gone on here that the rumours of his demise was greatly exaggerated," he said. "He decided to do this, lay low, and see how things broke power wise, and see who tried to take power in the event of his actual demise."
"I suspect we will see some purges in North Korea pretty soon," he added.
Kim could order sister's execution or imprisonment
Kim has previously ordered the killings of many North Korean officials for standing up against him. As of 2015, the dictator had already executed more than 70 officials, surpassing even his father's count, according to a report by The Times.
Last year, the leader reportedly executed a number of high-level officials in the wake of his failed Hanoi summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, as previously reported. A number of potential replacements for Kim were named amid rumours of his death, including Kim's sister, Kim Yo-jong.
Kim could very well order the executions or imprisonment of those who tried to take power from him, even if it's his own sister. He has spent six years in power cleansing the ranks of his regime, eliminating challengers and installing loyalists and the fact that it's a family member won't deter him.
The tyrant has previously ordered his 67-year-old uncle to be murdered along with several loyal officers and imprisoned 200 officials for alleged treachery in a brutal purge.
"He's always had this very vindictive pattern of showing his strength by killing people. It sends a clear message," Deputy Dean at the University of Essex Professor Natasha Lindstaedt told The Mirror. "The military has to keep him happy. The smallest thing is perceived as disloyalty."
"Any fear of a coup plot would mean he'd come back with a vengeance," she said before adding Kim's sister is now in a highly "precarious position."