Twitter, Weibo Spread Rumors of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un’s Assassination

Social media sites like Twitter and China’s Weibo say the new North Korean supreme leader is dead — fact or rumor?

Last Updated: February 10, 2012 @ 10:53 AM

Did social media just prematurely kill off the leader of North Korea?

Rumors that Kim Jong-un, the country’s supreme leader, has been assassinated just months after he took power originated on Chinese microblogging service Weibo and have now spread all over Twitter.

Others are reporting that Jong-un, believed to be 28 years old, may be on the run rather than dead, but both reports claim that some kind of coup is taking place.

One person on Weibo wrote (loose translation): "north korea's biggest leader kim jung un, this morning in beijing time 2:45 am, had his residence broken into and was assassinated by unidentified people, who were shot dead by his bodyguards in korea's embassy in beijing, vehicles are rapidly increasing in number, and have surpassed 30 of them, this sort of battle formation hasn't been seen in over two years. please verify this."

The rumors remain unsubstantiated. However, the reports are beginning to attract a great deal of attention, especially now that a couple of American news outlets including the Atlantic Wire have reported on them.

Weibo is in many ways the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, and disseminates news at a rapid pace. People were tipped off that there was something happening that involved Jong-Un, who succeeded his late father Kim Jong-Il, because of the mass of cars parked outside of his resident.

For good reason, many Twitter users are exercising caution, aware that news like this can spread without much to sustain it.

A sample of the dubious tweeters:

“Kim Jong Un apparently assasinated in Beijing. Source: 'Chinese Twitter'. What does that even mean? One Chinese person's account? or @China?” AdamThompson1 tweeted.

“Wait for confirmation on Kim Jong Un death rumors. Twitter is also reporting that ‘Jonas Brothers are the best band,’” Matt Binder wrote.

“Rumors from Chinese twitter that Kim Jong Un assassinated this morning in Beijing. pretty unlikely,” Dan Bennett posted.

So did social media spread the news or cause unnecessary hysteria? We will update when the news develops.

Michelle Ong contributed to this report.