Media outlets in China and Japan have claimed North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, 36, died on Saturday night, while other sources said he was in a vegetative state. The supreme leader had, according to a Chinese Doctor, been left severely ill after a delay in a simple heart procedure.
What does vegetative state mean?
According to the NHS, “a vegetative state is when a person is awake but is showing no signs of awareness”.
A person in a vegetative state may:
- open their eyes
- wake up and fall asleep at regular intervals
- have basic reflexes (such as blinking when they’re startled by a loud noise or withdrawing their hand when it’s squeezed hard)
- Social media explodes following reports of Kim Jong-un’s death
The NHS said a person in a vegetative state is “able to regulate their heartbeat and breathing without assistance”.
It added: “But a person in a vegetative state doesn’t show any meaningful responses, such as following an object with their eyes or responding to voices.”
People in this state also show no signs of experiencing emotions.
If a person is diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state, recovery is extremely unlikely but not impossible.
If a person is in a vegetative state for a long time, it may be considered to be:
- a continuing vegetative state when it’s been longer than 4 weeks
- a permanent vegetative state when it’s been more than 6 months if caused by a non-traumatic brain injury, or more than 12 months if caused by a traumatic brain injury
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- Reports of Kim Jong-un dead
Is Kim Jong-un dead?
On Saturday, a Hong Kong broadcast network claimed the North Korean dictator died, citing a “very solid source.”
However, a Japanese magazine, meanwhile, reported late Friday he is in “a vegetative state.”
Reports claim he is on death bed after a heart operation went wrong because his doctor’s hand was shaking.
The speculations were further fuelled when China reportedly dispatched medical experts to help treat Kim, as reported by Reuters.
David Maxwell, a North Korea specialist at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies told New York Post: “When it comes to North Korea you can never be too sure until you hear the news from the country itself.
“But it’s worth noting that there are 6.5 million smartphones in North Korea now and even though the coverage is within the country, information has a way of getting out faster now than it did in the past.”
However, a special train possibly belonging to the North Korean ruler has been spotted at a resort town, according to satellite images.
The images were reviewed by a Washington-based North Korea monitoring project.
The monitoring project, known as 38 North, said the train was parked at the “leadership station” in Wonsan on April 21 and April 23.
The station is reserved for the use of the Kim family, it said.
Kim has been North Korea’s supreme leader since 2011, replacing his father Kim Jon Il, who reportedly died of a heart attack.
Kim Jong Il had succeeded his father, Kim Il Sung, who died of a heart attack in 1994.
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