REFILE - CLARIFYING DATES Jang Song Thaek, with his hands tied with a rope, is dragged into the court by uniformed personnel December 12, 2013 in this picture published in Rodong Sinmun December 13, 2013 and released by Yonhap. North Korea said on Friday that Jang, the uncle of leader Kim Jong Un, previously considered the second most powerful man in the secretive state, has been executed for treason, the biggest upheaval since the death of Kim's father two years ago. REUTERS/Yonhap (NORTH KOREA - Tags: POLITICS MILITARY) ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS PICTURE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. REUTERS IS UNABLE TO INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, CONTENT, LOCATION OR DATE OF THIS IMAGE. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. NO SALES. NO ARCHIVES. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. SOUTH KOREA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN SOUTH KOREA
Forget the hangman’s noose, the firing squad or lethal injection: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un executed his uncle and a handful of the man’s aides by feeding them to a horde of 120 starving dogs, according to a shocking (but unconfirmed) account.
Warning: Even in their unconfirmed state, the details are a bit gruesome.
Jang Song Thaek, the former No. 2 official in the secretive regime, was stripped naked and tossed 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. This is called ‘quan jue’, or execution by dogs,” according to the Straits Times of Singapore. The daily relied on a description of the execution in a Hong Kong newspaper that serves as the official mouthpiece of China’s government there. More established outlets in mainland China have not repeated the account.
“The entire process lasted for an hour, with Mr. Kim Jong Un, the supreme leader in North Korea, supervising it along with 300 senior officials,” the Straits Times said in a piece published Dec. 24, 2013, but only now getting traction in the United States. Two American national security officials contacted for comment said they had not heard that account, which first appeared in the Wen Wei Po newspaper on Dec. 12, 2013, and declined to vouch for its credibility.
Over the years, some North Korean defectors have reportedly told (also unconfirmed) stories of specially trained dogs used to maul prisoners. Human rights groups have long denounced the horrors of North Korea's prison-camp system. But the description is at odds with numerous other accounts that Jang was shot dead. And the Washington Post published a warning against taking the report at face value. And the Post was far from the only skeptical outlet.
While China acts as North Korea’s patron, relations between the two have been strained. The United States wants Beijing to take a more active role in pressuring Kim’s Stalinist regime in Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons. The Straits Times suggested that China’s government leaked the account of the December execution to signal its anger at Kim’s government.
The United States has labored to get a grip on what kind of leader Kim Jong Un will be, amid worries in Washington that he is more reckless than his father, Kim Jong Il, whom he succeeded as supreme leader in December 2011.