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Kim’s death impacts North Korea’s image in China

(Global Times)    13:43, February 22, 2017

Detailed and updated information about the death of Kim Jong-nam, an elder half-brother of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, has been widely available on the Internet and closely followed by the Chinese public, despite cautious coverage by Chinese mainstream media.

Chinese readers seem to be convinced that the death of Kim Jong-nam is not a case of simple murder, but a serious political incident, a special neighbor for the Chinese people, therefore the news is sensational and intriguing for some Chinese readers.

"We surely care about news about North Korea and we also care about its influence on China," a 65-year-old Beijing resident surnamed Jiang told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"North Korea is a special country to Chinese people, especially to those of my age, because we were instilled with a notion that Sino-North Korean friendship has been built on the blood of both countries' people and soldiers, and North Korean movies and music were also very popular in the past," Jiang said.

But there are also people who didn't pay much attention to the details of the incident, as they believe it is irrelevant to China.

A 22-year old female student surnamed Wang at Peking University told the Global Times that "the incident is not very important, at least for China, so Chinese media should not report this too much."

"I don't know why we need to pay immense attention to a North Korean who died in Malaysia. All I feel is that Malaysia is very unlucky," she said, explaining that previously their planes went missing or got shot down, and a marine accident occurred a few weeks ago. "Now because of Kim Jong-nam's death, North Korea, South Korea and even the US will mess with it."

While some Chinese media, such as Caixin Media and news portals sina.com and guancha.cn, followed the case by translating reports from foreign media and provided analysts' opinions, mainstream media have been very cautious about reporting the incident in the beginning.

  Online discussion on the killer

Foreign media's reports point to the possibility that the North Korean government killed Kim Jong-nam. Chinese netizens pointed out that China did not have the responsibility to protect him when he was not in Chinese territory.

"The Chinese government provided protection to him because he was a sensitive figure living in Macao, while at the airport in Malaysia he didn't even have a bodyguard," a Net user named "Red Devil" commented on guancha.cn.

"China so obviously has nothing to do with this case," another netizen named Cangyu further said. "If China wants to make use of Kim Jong-nam in the future, he would not have been allowed to leave China."

"Additionally, South Korea's intent should be taken into consideration. The South Korean media and government were so prepared that they already confirmed everything before the Malaysian government confirmed the victim's identity and the result of the investigation," Cangyu said.

Although currently Malaysia has confirmed the identity of the victim, North Korea is unwilling to accept it.

According to Xinhua, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Thursday that the deceased North Korean man was Kim Jong-nam. At a press conference, when asked if the man was confirmed to be Kim Jong-nam, Zahid relied, "yes, certainly yes." Malaysian police had earlier also identified the deceased man as Kim Chol, based on his passport.

But North Korea's Ambassador to Malaysia Kang Chol insisted that the victim is "Kim Chol" rather than Kim Jong-un's elder brother, Xinhua reported.

  Fading image

In recent years, North Korea's image in China has been damaged seriously due to its repeated nuclear tests and missile launches which is destabilizing for the region. North Korea is not seen as a "close ally" on Chinese social media anymore. Most people treat it as a normal neighbor, and some even deem it as a troublemaker who causes China embarrassment in the international community.

"There is no need for China to defend North Korea, this kind of response from North Korea shows that they are not innocent," a 30-year-old white-collar worker surnamed Wu in Shanghai told the Global Times on Tuesday.

"It is so sad that Pyongyang refuses to cooperate with China when the latter has offered to help," a Net user named Bingbing commented on Sina Weibo.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Jiang Jie, Bianji)

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