South Korean media report that a small plane crashed near the North Korean port of Wonsan last week.
The plane is reportedly similar to one used to transport North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and the dictator has a villa near Wonsan, reports Mugdha Variyar for The International Business Times.
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South Korean official reports plane crash
The Yonhap news agency cites a South Korean official who states that a Cessna plane came down in North Korea on 15 July. The official claimed that the crash had been confirmed by “intelligence assets” from both South Korea and the United States.
The source says that Kim Jong-un was not on board the plane, and he was seen on North Korean television later that day. The dictator has since made another public appearance, voting in local assembly elections on July 19.
CNN reports that a remarkable 99.97% of voters turned out to participate, which is even more extraordinary given the fact that previous local elections in 2011 also reported the same exact turnout percentage.
Crash reports could not be confirmed
North Korean media did not carry any reports of the crash, neither was it confirmed by South Korea‘s National Intelligence Service. A spy official did specify that Kim Jong-un is known to use a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
A video showing Kim Jong-un “flying” a small plane went viral earlier this year, and the North Korean leader previously told state media that his subjects had built the plane themselves.
“Our factory workers managed to build the aeroplane with their own hand and own technology… shows that party’s will always turn out as the practice – I must drive the plane built by our working class people,” said Kim.
However South Korea believes that Pyongyang builds the Cessna planes using imported components.
Reports of the plane crash are unverified and the South Korea presidential office, National Intelligence Service and Defense Ministry declined to comment.
Death of Kim Jong-un would cause massive uncertainty in North Korea
The death of Kim Jong-un would pose a real threat to the continuity of the family dynasty, and may even spark a complicated family battle for leadership between his two brothers and one sister.
Kim Jong-nam is currently in exile, which leaves Kim Jong-chol and sister Kim Yo-jung as viable successors. Kim Jong-un recently appointed his younger sister as head of the state propaganda service, reports TIME.
The report cites an official source who states: “It is said that Kim Jong Un has the utmost trust and confidence in his sister.”
However highly Kim Jong-un may regard his sister, state ideology means that any deviation from the direct family line is seen as a threat to legitimacy. Although opposition movements are thought to be minimal within North Korea, a disputed succession may provoke rifts in state apparatus which leads to the downfall of the Kim regime.
Despite well-documented economic struggles and a number of reported scares, the Kims have controlled North Korea for over six decades in what has become one of the world’s longest running dictatorships.
The end of the dynasty would be celebrated in many parts of the world, with North Korea existing as an international pariah for many years. Allegations of extensive human rights abuses led to the opening of a United Nations investigative office in South Korea, and few would mourn the end of a dangerous regime.