It’s one of the viral rumours of the start of 2014: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is said to have executed his uncle by having him stripped and thrown to a pack of 120 dogs who had previously been starved for three days. It’s also claimed he invited around 300 officials to observe the gruesome hour-long spectacle.
The source for this rumour? Initially a state-run Chinese newspaper supposedly close to the North Korean leadership, the Wen Wei Po, which was then quoted by The Straits Times in Singapore before the story found its way to the Western media. In any case, the rumour is yet to be either confirmed or denied by official North Korean sources. A denial may well come. In the meantime the story has become fodder for some Western commentators as ravenous as Kim’s pack of hounds to chew over whether or not the story – as incredible as it sounds – might in fact be true. After all, this came out of North Korea…
The thing is about North Korea that there is little chance of anyone outside Kim’s inner circle ever really finding out the truth. We are fairly sure that Kim’s uncle, Chang Song Thaek, was executed. We know that Kim said this was the case and that he claimed in a New Year’s message that the ruling party was stronger without his once-powerful relative whom he described as “factional filth.”
There are three possibilities:
1. The story is true. Chang Song Thaek was indeed fed to the dogs.
2. The story is a fabrication ‘Made in China’.
3. The story is a fabrication ‘Made in Pyongyang’.
What is unsettling – apart from the story itself – is that it is nigh on impossible to verify. Perhaps what we should remember is not the dogs but the fact that, in the words of Human Rights Watch “The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) systematically violates the rights of its population.”
And until something is done about it by the UN, or more likely China, we can expect more such stories to find their way to us, whether they be urban myths or grotesque facts.