Did North Korea's Kim Really Sic Dogs on His Uncle?

Pundits weigh in on why we should, or shouldn't, give the story credence
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 4, 2014 10:40 AM CST
Did North Korea's Kim Really Sic Dogs on His Uncle?
In this July 25, 2013, photo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, left, and his uncle Jang Song Thaek walk through a cemetery for Korean War veterans in Pyongyang.   (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Yesterday's story that Kim Jong Un executed his uncle with a pack of starving dogs is amazing even by North Korea standards. But is it true? The consensus out there seems to be probably not—although there's a definite sentiment that the regime is so crazy it would be foolish to rule it out. Some samples:

  • Unlikely: Emily Rauhala at Time is in the skeptical camp. The report originally came from only one source, the pro-China newspaper Wen Wei Po. "China’s powers of information control are not perfect, but the arms of its propaganda machine tend to wave in synch." Plus, other reports in more reliable sources had said Jang Song Thaek was killed by "more traditional means."

  • But maybe: "It'd be wrong to discount this story completely," writes Adam Taylor at Business Insider in an otherwise skeptical summary. Remember that people doubted the initial reports of the uncle's purge, only to be proved wrong. And stories out of the North's prison camps "are just as horrific and brutal as the story of Jang's execution."
  • 'Anything is possible': Vocativ quotes a University of Texas professor and expert on the North who wouldn't put it past Kim. It's “certainly believable based on the fact that this is a regime that has prided itself on doing things that are outlandish and shocking." The point is "to get attention and to get what they want.” A Columbia professor adds that "anything is possible" when it comes to Pyongyang.
  • Don't expect resolution: We'll likely never know for sure. But "no matter the truth, reports like this one point out, again, the scope of North Korean dysfunction," writes Danielle Wiener-Bronner at the Wire. "That we are even considering the possibility that Kim killed his uncle by throwing him in a pit of starving dogs (instead of traditional execution by firing squad) attests to both that nation's madness and our own obsessions with it."
(Read more Kim Jong Un stories.)

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