The story, which spread like wildfire after it was picked up by a
Hong Kong-based newspaper, has created an image that Pyongyang's
young ruler is even more brutal and unpredictable than previously
While North Korea has said it purged and executed Kim's uncle, Jang
Song Thaek, last month, it did not release details of how the man
who was once the second most powerful figure in the isolated country
Initial speculation was that Jang had been killed by firing squad, a
fate that media outlets said was the usual one reserved for
"traitors". But an alternative narrative of the 67-year old's death
emerged on what appears to have been a satirical post on the Chinese
Tencent Weibo site that has been repeated by many media outlets
The December 11 post on Tencent Weibo
(http://t.qq.com/p/t/312572016688539) said Jang and five aides were
killed by dogs.
The post records that it was viewed 290,000 times.
The Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po newspaper released an article and a
screenshot of the Weibo post which it used to justify its report
that Jang had been torn apart.
Wen Wei Po, although independent, is viewed as being pro-Beijing.
Its report was in turn picked up 12 days later by the
Singapore-based Straits Times and then by a wide range of U.S. and
European media from print to television.
Kim Jong Un, believed to be around 30 years old, has been in power
for two years and presided over a nuclear test and two rocket test
launches that are banned under United Nations sanctions.
In 2013, Pyongyang threatened to strike South Korea, the United
States and Japan in fiery rhetoric that triggered an arms buildup in
[to top of second column]
One of the pitfalls of reporting on North Korea is that few
independent media have offices there and visiting media are tightly
controlled in a country which ranks among the lowest in global
surveys of press freedom.
Because of the lack of first hand information, many lurid stories
about the country gain credence.
Trevor Powell, a Chicago-based software engineer, who first spotted
the link to the Weibo post and reported it on his own blog said that
analysts and experts were "still all missing the obvious fact that
the original source of the Wen Wei Po story was a tweet from a known
satirist or someone posing as him/her."
Powell blogged about the post at
He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Officials at Wen Wei Po declined to comment on the article.
(Additional reporting by James Pomfret and Yimou Lee in Hong
and John Ruwitch in Shangahi; editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)
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