High-Ranking North Korean Official Dies in Car Crash (Maybe)
North Korea took a hit on December 29th as Kim Yang-gon, a close aide to King Jong-un and leading North Korean diplomat to South Korea, died in a car crash at the age of 73, according to the North Korean Central News Agency.
Of course, since this is North Korea and the state-run NKCNA we are talking about, many immediately became suspicious.
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Han Park, a professor of international relations at the University of Georgia who helped secure the release of two American journalists detained in North Korea back in 2009, pointed out to CNN that “death by traffic accident” was also how Kim Yang-gon’s predecessor, Kim Yong-soon, had died, and also noted that “traffic accidents are very uncommon” in North Korea. This is because there are very few cars in impoverished North Korea.
Andrei Lankov, a professor at Seoul’s Kookmin University, also pointed out an odd trend. “If you look at the North Korean history,” he said to CNN, “we can see that a surprising large number of their high level North Korean officials have died in car crashes.”
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In short, when the North Korean government or news agency says that a trusted adviser has tragically died in a horrific car crash that is oh-so-sad-you-guys, what most of us now assume is that translates to “killed in barely-concealed cover-up.”
In any case, this translates to bad news for North/South relations, as Kim Yang-gon was the chief diplomat between North Korea and South Korea. The South Korean government has sent North Korea a letter of condolence for their loss.