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Madison Czopek
By Madison Czopek May 26, 2023

No evidence North Korea is evacuating its capital. Claim stems from unconfirmed 2017 report

If Your Time is short

  • We found no evidence that North Korea recently evacuated its capital city, Pyongyang.

  • The video shared with the claim was created in April 2017 — but it also included unconfirmed information.

  • The 2017 evacuation reports were attributed to a Russian news source. PolitiFact searched Google and the Nexis news database and found no credible reports that Pyongyang was evacuated in 2017 or on May 18, when the post was shared.

A video shared May 18 alleged that North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, ordered the evacuation of the capital city of Pyongyang, ahead of a big national event and amid rising geopolitical tensions.

"BREAKING ALERT!" read the all-capital-letters caption on the Facebook video. "KIM JUST ORDERED THE EVACUATION OF THE CAPITAL CITY AS ‘MAJOR EVENT’ LOOMS."

The video provided more detail: The host, identified in screen text as Gary Franchi, claimed that a Russian newspaper reported that Kim ordered Pyongyang’s evacuation amid rising tension with the United States.

"This is happening right now," Franchi said, nearly two minutes into the video that was shared without its original publication date or any context. "Pyongyang, a portion of it, is now being evacuated, the civilians there — in anticipation of a major, major event on the horizon." He said there were reports of an upcoming nuclear test and claimed that a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group was on its way to the Korean peninsula.

This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) 

(Screenshot from Facebook.)

Commenting on the post, some Facebook users said the clip was outdated. "Dead news man," wrote one user. Another said: "This is such OLD NEWS. Why bother sharing it." 

Those Facebook users were correct. 

We found the original video shared to Franchi’s YouTube channel April 12, 2017. Franchi’s channel, The Next News Network, was criticized for its promotion of conspiracy theories and in February was demonetized by YouTube. 

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We found no credible news reports on Google or the Nexis news database to corroborate the claim that Pyongyang was evacuated on or around April 12, 2017.

The Next News video attributed the reports of Pyongyang’s evacuation to a Russian news source. The articles we found similarly attributed the evacuation claims to "Pravda Report," a Russian publication that "covers both straightforward news (often with a Russian nationalist slant) as well as conspiracy theories," according to Business Insider

Some articles purported to show video of evacuation alarms ringing out in Pyongyang and triggering the evacuation, but those reports were found to be unsubstantiated. The Observers, a news organization in France, determined that the video was not taken in North Korea and "as far as our journalists can make out, Pyongyang was never evacuated."

These unsubstantiated claims circulated during a period of heightened tensions between North Korea and the United States that began in 2017, when it was feared that an attempted missile launch might provoke a U.S. military response.

A photograph released by the North Korean government on July 29, 2017, shows what is said to be the launch of a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

As of May 26, the post that shared an outdated video making unsubstantiated claims had amassed more than 830,000 views. 

A Nexis news database search also yielded no credible news reports that Pyongyang was  evacuated in May 2023. 

Our ruling

A May 18 Facebook video’s caption claimed that Kim "just ordered the evacuation of the capital city."

The post shared a video from 2017 — without listing its publication date — that referred to unsubstantiated claims from a Russian news outlet. We found no evidence that Pyongyang was evacuated in 2017 or earlier this month. 

We rate this claim False.

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No evidence North Korea is evacuating its capital. Claim stems from unconfirmed 2017 report

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