Great news: Kim Jong-un’s uncle probably not executed by 120 hungry dogs. We think.
posted at 2:18 pm on January 3, 2014 by Ed Morrissey
Probably not. That rumor swept the Twittertubes of late, but it’s based on an unsourced report from one of Hong Kong’s least-reliable tabloids, which is somewhat akin to being one of Barack Obama’s least-credible promises. Max Fisher explains:
If you’ve been on the Internet at all today, you’ve almost certainly seen the story claiming that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed last month by stripping him naked and feeding him to 120 hungry dogs. The story was first reported by a minor Hong Kong outlet on Dec. 12, was picked up by a Singaporean newspaper on Dec. 24 and since late Thursday has been sweeping through nearly every corner of the U.S. media. The only problem is that it’s probably – probably – not true.
It was indeed a big surprise last month when South Korean intelligence revealed that Kim had purged his own uncle, Jang Song Thaek, which North Korea confirmed a couple of days later with a long screed in its state media. The highly public nature of the purge, which ended with Pyongyang announcing Jang’s execution, was totally unprecedented and legitimately shocking, which is a high bar for North Korea news.
Crazy-sounding stories happen with some frequency in North Korea, where the government has a well-earned reputation for taking political punishments to medieval extremes. But there are five big reasons that this story just does not seem particularly plausible. The fact that the Western media have so widely accepted a story they would reject if it came out of any other country tells us a lot about how North Korea is covered — and how it’s misunderstood.
Jang most likely met his end with a firing squad or some other more modern execution method, which makes him just as dead. Or maybe …
“Bottom line is: unlikely but I can’t rule it out,” O’Carroll, whose NKNews site is known for its sober and careful coverage of North Korea, acknowledged. “While this one definitely feels exaggerated, who knows? With North Korea’s KCNA publishing films showing the destruction of effigies of [former South Korean President] Lee Myung-bak by hungry dogs last year, and of course publishing several cartoons depicting the gruesome death of the same president, at least parts of the story could be within the realm of true. Don’t forget the North Koreans even hosted competitions last year to think up the most gruesome way to kill ‘Traitor’ [Lee Myung-bak]; the prize? The winner could carry out that particular death sentence!”
Be sure to read all of Fisher’s lengthy — and entertaining — essay.