Did Kim Jong-Un Feed His Uncle To Dogs? (UPDATE)

North Korean Dictator Kim-Jong Un may not have had his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, and five of his closest aides executed by firing squad for crimes against the state as had been widely reported. A new story out of the Singapore Straights Times cites an unconfirmed report out of Wen Wei Po, a Hong-Kong based newspaper believed to be the official media outlet of the Chinese government, that states Thaek and his aides were instead fed alive to a pack of 120 starving hounds. An execution known as “quan jue,” or execution by dogs.

According to the Straights Times, “[…] previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang was stripped naked and thrown into a cage, along with his five closest aides. Then 120 hounds, starved for three days, were allowed to prey on them until they were completely eaten up.”

Thaek was once considered the second most powerful man in the North Korea. He was removed from his post and stripped of all power in early December following allegations of treason. The Korean Central News Agency, the North Korean state media outlet, confirmed on December 13 that Thaek and his allies had been found guilty by a Special Military Tribunal of the charges levied against them and had been summarily executed, but did not specify how the executions were carried out.

High profile executions seems to have become a very troubling theme in North Korea the past several months.

South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo reported that on November 3, some 80 plus people were rounded up in North Korea and executed for seemingly trivial offenses such as “watching South Korean films or distributing pornography.”

According to one witness in Wonsan in the Kangwon Province of North Korea, “authorities gathered some 10,000 people, including children, at Shinpoong Stadium, which has a capacity of 30,000 people, and forced them to watch.”

This large-scale execution may be related to the earlier executions of several music performers that were conducted during the summer.

In late August, South Korea’s Chosun Libo confirmed that “[…] singer Hyon Song-wol as well as Mun Kyong-jin, head of the Unhasu Orchestra, were arrested [along with seven other members of the orchestra] on Aug. 17 for violating North Korean laws against pornography and were executed in public three days later.” There are conflicting reports from sources on the exact motive behind these executions. A high-ranking North Korean official that recently defected told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun daily paper that Kim ordered the executions to protect his wife Ri Sol Ju, a former member of the orchestra until June of 2012, from potential negative fallout relating to the scandal. Another source for the Chosun Ilbo claims the executions were motivated for purely political reasons. “Kim Jong-un has been viciously eliminating anyone who he deems a challenge to his authority.”

Unfortunately, digging down to the truth regarding these executions will be difficult, if not impossible to discern, due in part to North Korea’s notoriously secretive nature and isolationist practices. Kim could be using trumped-up charges as a tool by which he can eliminate potential threats to his rule while simultaneously demonstrating his power. A story by Fox News suggests a different theory altogether – that the central government wants to “stamp out public unrest or capitalistic zeal” that followed on the heels of Kim initiating a series of economic development projects. Which, perhaps coincidentally, includes the transformation of Wanson, the aforementioned site for executions used during then November sweep, into a major tourist destination complete with new hotels, an airport and a ski resort. Or, it could be a combination of reasons that prompted the executions. Nobody knows for sure what exactly is going on, save for the fact an alarming number of people in the country are alleged to have been publicly killed.

That is why commentating or postulating on Thaek and his compatriot’s rather over-the-top demise is difficult. A distinction must be made between whether or not someone inside the central government has legitimately claimed the men were executed in “quan jue” fashion, and whether or not such a statement is credible.

To answer that first question, could someone inside the central government of North Korea have made such a claim? Absolutely. The North Korean government has no problem with trying to pass off absurd claims as fact. Did you hear the one about former dictator Kim Jong-il being able to control the weather based on his moods (Kang and Rigoulet, 2005), or that he was walking around and talking to people at just six months of age? His son tossing his uncle and five others to a pack of starving dogs sounds almost tame in comparison to some of the previous claims made by the regime.

Did Thaek truly meet such a grisly end? Doubtful. A more plausible scenario is that Thaek and his men were killed by a more traditional North Korean firing squad, and the tale of the men suffering “quan jue” was concocted and spread by the regime in order to instill a sense of fear regarding Kim with the populace and those that harbored sympathetic feelings for his uncle.

Chol-hwan Kang and Pierre Rigoulot (2005). The Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag, Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-01104-7.

See also: No, Kim Jong Un probably didn’t feed his uncle to 120 hungry dogs.

Editors Note: This is not a new concept, sadly. Here are some extras provided by Jeb Card.

Dog Law Reporter: The Dogs of the Conquistadors.

Vasco Núñez de Balboa executing indigenous Panamanians by war dog for same-sex practice. De Bry Collection

Vasco Núñez de Balboa executing indigenous Panamanians by war dog for same-sex practice. De Bry Collection

UPDATE (8-Jan-2014) Reuters has info on the source of this rumor
North Korean execution by dog story likely came from satire | Reuters.

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.”

  10 comments for “Did Kim Jong-Un Feed His Uncle To Dogs? (UPDATE)

  1. Guy
    January 3, 2014 at 6:52 PM

    Isn’t it usually the other way round in Korea?

    • January 3, 2014 at 7:14 PM

      I originally wrote-up two small jokes to include in the piece. One was about how describing the dogs as “starving” wasn’t necessary as this was North Korea we were talking about, and the second questioning North Korea’s ability to raise enough cash to purchase 120 dogs in the first place. In the end though I decided to keep it straight.

      • espressofrog
        January 3, 2014 at 8:01 PM

        Good jokes though. Thanks for the article.

  2. Marcus
    January 3, 2014 at 8:32 PM

    “or that he was walking around and talking to people at just six years of age?” – in fairness, this does happen in most schools :)

    • January 4, 2014 at 7:47 AM

      Doh! Thanks for pointing out the typo. That should read “six months of age?”

  3. Blargh
    January 3, 2014 at 9:19 PM

    Speaking of hoaxes, that reported mass execution is a bleeding obvious one: unsubtle hooks for a South Korean audience (crimes such as “watching South Korean movies” or “possessing bibles”) coupled with insane troll logic (super-public executions, forcing people to watch and then… covering it up?)… naturally, from an anonymous source.

    The execution of Hyon Song-wol? Probably didn’t happen either.

    When reading news on North Korea: if the item in question originated in South Korea, take it with a grain of salt (take it with a whole salt shaker, in fact). If the sources are anonymous, consider it unreliable (often: a deliberate hoax). If the sources are named, check them.
    (The latter two are good practice for any news item, but an absolute must for North Korean news)

    My suggested reading on North Korea is “Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader: North Korea and the Kim Dynasty” by Bradley K. Martin (ISBN 978-0312323226). It is a great primer for trying to understanding the country, and he’s done some impressive digging to try to get at the truth.

    • January 4, 2014 at 8:05 AM

      That is why I find N. Korea to be such a fascinating topic. The real truth is almost impossible to find due to a propaganda war being waged by both N. and S. Korea in regards to the country.

      “When reading news on North Korea: if the item in question originated in South Korea, take it with a grain of salt (take it with a whole salt shaker, in fact).” Agreed, and that is part of the problem. Pretty much everything originates from an unconfirmed South Korean source. That is why I suggested it is important to ask and answer two questions regarding any claims made – is it plausible such claims were made, and if so, is it plausible the claims are true?

      The story regarding the execution of Hyon Song-wol and other members of the Unhasu Orchestra is a great example. So many questions surround just this one story. Did Song-wol actually have a prior relationship with Kim Jong-un? Were they really executed on charges of engaging in pornography? Were they executed at all?

      I appreciate the feedback though, and thanks for the book recommendation! I’m downloading it to my iPad as I type this :)

  4. SmOakley
    January 4, 2014 at 7:54 AM

    King Tongmyong used to ride a unicorn and a unicorn lair was discovered by Kim Jong Un about two years ago. So, there’s that.

  5. Chris Howard
    January 5, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    Was his body carried off to Heaven by a thousand, celestial cranes?

Comments are closed.