Kim Jong Un has presided over a country that has been ranked No. 1 on the World Watch List for almost 20 years. There is no more dangerous place to be a Christian—if believers are discovered, they risk imprisonment in one of North Korea’s notorious prison camps, or even execution.
So: What would it mean for North Korean Christians if Kim Jong Un is sick or dying? What would it mean for the North Korean government? And how can we pray for North Korea and for its secret, 300,000 believers?
First: What do we actually know?
Because Kim Jong Un—like his deceased father and grandfather—is treated as a deity, all information about him is tightly controlled. The North Korean government will only announce bad news if it’s obvious something bad has happened, and so far they have remained quiet about Kim Jong Un’s health.
That is surprising, because in the past, whenever the international media has speculated about his health, the North Korean government has countered this with propaganda messages. The fact that this hasn’t happened indicates that something is going on.
Though he is only 30, Kim is noticeably unhealthy, as he is a chain-smoker and heavily obese, and diabetes runs in the Kim family. A source told Daily NK—a news website run by North Korean defectors—that Kim Jong Un underwent heart surgery, and is recovering from the surgery in a villa outside of Pyongyang. Both the hospital and the villa are for the exclusive use of the Kim family.
Open Doors wants to emphasize that this news cannot be confirmed. It seems clear, however, that his health condition is not good—though we do not think he has died. On April 22, North Korea released a statement from Kim Jong Un—releasing a public statement would be a huge risk if Kim was dead.