Kim Jong Un waves to people attending a military parade in Pyongyang, April 2017
Damir Sagolj / Reuters

Last month’s media frenzy over the health and possible death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un seemed in many respects like an indulgent diversion. During the nearly three-week period, starting on April 11, when Kim did not appear in public, international media outlets amplified thinly sourced reports suggesting that he might be in “grave danger” or even dead following a rumored cardiovascular procedure gone wrong. Satirical memes under the hashtag #KIMJONGUNDEAD, one of which depicted the leader as a pickle in a “vegetative state,” took social media by storm. Kim’s May 1 reappearance, alive and seemingly well at

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