However a prominent academic has thrown doubt on the veracity of the story. Remco Breuker, Professor of Korean studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands, told The Independent that the defector’s account may not be true. “The report comes from a defector whose family name is given but nothing else. Usually when defectors break stories – and they do and they are often reliable – you know who is saying what,” he said.
“This is the kind of thing the public likes to believe about North Korea. I talked to other analysts and they were actually very angry; they said the chances that this actually happened are very, very slim, but once it gets exposed, it’s those who have been exiled who have to pay the price,” Breuker continued.
Academic questions our perceptions of North Korea
Breuker believes that it is most likely that Kim Kyong is ill, so much so that she cannot leave her house, which begs the questions as to why Kim would would her killed. “Most people agree that she is quite ill, although we don’t know what her illness is. It’s hard to image why her own nephew would want to poison her, unless you imagine him as an evil genius, which is of course how we really like to see dictators in general,” he said.
The lack of access to North Korea means that there exists an information vacuum around the secretive nation, and Western media often runs stories based on pure speculation rather than verifiable facts. The lack of access granted to journalists makes it almost impossible to report from the ground, and stories which paint a picture of a bloodthirsty dictator sell better than those which claim that someone is ill.