Kim Jong-un Buries Mentor Amid North Korea COVID Crisis

    Photo: KNCA via Reuters [via Business Insider]

    The Facts

    • Kim Jong-un attended the funeral of Hyon Chol-hae on Sun., a Marshal in the Korean People's Army who was believed to have had a crucial role in mentoring North Korea's current leader after his father's death in 2011.

    • State media photos show Kim Jong-un unmasked and carrying Hyon's coffin with other men who, unlike the leader, were wearing masks. The state-run Korean Central News Agency stated that "a great many" soldiers and citizens turned out to mourn North Korea's loss.

    The Spin

    Narrative A

    This is a potential humanitarian catastrophe for North Korea and the entire world. The hermetic nation shunned vaccines and international engagement to battle the pandemic, and its population is now highly vulnerable to the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant. Concerningly, this makes North Korea a potential ground zero for new variants that could ultimately affect the entire globe.

    Narrative B

    The world has the tools to handle COVID now. Vaccines and boosters are great, but Omicron is mild and spreading too quickly to be stopped. We should aim for natural herd immunity and vaccinate only the vulnerable. Resistance is futile.

    Cynical narrative

    Hyon had decades of decorated service in the regime. Kim Jong-un has often arranged big funerals for senior officials of the ruling family who have passed away and this may highlight a little-seen human side to the leader. But more likely it's a possible bid to draw the support of the country's ruling elite and boost internal unity.

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