Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un
Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-il, Kim Jong-un

North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un is said to be in a 'vegetative state' as his health appears could be more serious than initially believed, Japanese media reported on Sunday. The rumours around his deteriorating health have been rife for the past couple of days but the North Korean media outlets have remained quiet on their leader’s whereabouts without putting out any reports on his public activity amid persisting speculations.

While researching around the life of Kim Jong-un, an interesting fact, perhaps lesser known by those unversed with Korean culture, reveals that all North Korean leaders are named as Kim. Is it really unusual or the desperation to carry a family name ahead? Here’s some factual info to boost your brain cells.

While K-pop and K-drama have put Korea on a global map in an advanced manner, allow us to explain the naming style that is quite unique than the rest of the world. A Korean name consists of a family name followed by a given name. The given names are made of generational names, which are shared by siblings and extended family members.

The family names are subdivided into clans which are identified through a specific place that traces its origin to a common ancestor. The most common ones are Kim, Lee, and Park that account for half the population. For example, the most populous clan is Gimhae Kim; that is, the Kim clan from the city of Gimhae. Other Kim clans include Uiseong, Gyeongju, Nagan, Hamchang, Andong, Gwangsan, and YaSeung.

Even within each clan, people in different families are not related to each other. These distinctions are important, since Korean law used to prohibit intermarriage in the same clan, no matter how remote the relationship; now, however, only those in a relationship of second cousins or closer are prohibited from marrying.

In this case the denominator is the “Kim Dynasty”. Also known as the Mount Paektu bloodline or Mount Baekdu bloodline, is a three-generation lineage of leadership that descended from the country's first leader, Kim Il-sung, Kim Jong-un's grandfather. With the family considered as royals, the leadership extension also reflects in the use of the name “Kim” in all higher ranks.

Rumours about Kim's health problems spiked after a CNN report earlier this week, citing a US official, said that Washington was looking into intelligence that Kim was in "grave danger" after a surgery, reports Yonhap News Agency.

But South Korea downplayed the report, saying that it had seen no unusual signs with regard to Kim's health. North Korea's state media have recently put out reports on Kim sending diplomatic letters and conveying gifts to honoured citizens but stopped short of providing reports or photos featuring his public activity.

On Wednesday, state media said Kim had sent another message to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, expressing gratitude for congratulating him on the anniversary of his late grandfather and national founder Kim Il-sung's birthday. No reports, however, on the leader's "field guidance" trips or photos on his public activities have been released by state media for nearly two weeks, said the Yonhap News Agency report.

Kim was last seen in state media on April 11 presiding over a political bureau meeting of the ruling Workers' Party, calling for strict measures against the coronavirus pandemic. But his absence from a key ceremony commemorating the 108th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung on April 15 sparked speculation over his health. He has never skipped his trip to the mausoleum since taking office in late 2011.

Kim seems to be staying in a "local region" outside of Pyongyang, and business is going on as usual in the North, according to South Korean government officials. Some media reports speculated that Kim might be in the eastern coastal town of Wonsan to avoid the pandemic.

US President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he believes the CNN report on Kim's failing health was "incorrect".

It is not rare for Kim to disappear from public view for some time. The ministry handling inter-Korean affairs said that he re-emerged after as long as 21 days of absence earlier this year. In 2014, he disappeared from the public eye for about a month but reappeared limping. He was later confirmed to have had a cyst removed from his ankle.

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