Reports of North Korea's exploits are always worth being extra-skeptical of, but it seems Western media as a whole may have been duped by what could be a satirical tweet.
Last week, multiple news sources, including, yes, The Huffington Post UK, reported on a story first published in the newspaper Wen Wei Po, and picked up by the Straits Times, that said the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had his uncle Jang Song-taek executed by feeding him to a pack of 120 dogs.
It described the process of execution by dogs as “quan jue”, stating it lasted an hour and was personally overseen by the North Korean leader.
TOP STORIES OF THE DAY
- George Osborne Warns Of 'Year Of Hard Truths' In 2014
- Jimmy Savile Victims Call For Single Inquiry, Voicing Fears Over Multiple Investigations
- Lawyers Stage Historic Mass Walkout Over Drastic Legal Aid Cuts
- Nigel Farage Says Enoch Powell's 'Rivers Of Blood' Speech 'Right In Principle'
- Huge Waves And Strong Winds To Cause More Coastal Flooding
Very quickly, people began to pick holes in the story – for starters, Wen Wei Po is a Hong Kong-based newspaper supportive of the Chinese government and many questioned whether the country is using the newspaper to spread anti-North Korea propaganda.
Additionally, Trevor Powell, an employee at an investment research firm who grew up in Taiwan, noticed something unusual.
Writing on his blog, Powell explains that the whole ravenous dogs of death aspect of the execution appears to be sourced to a "tweet" on the Tencent Weibo microblogging platform.
The account appears to be held by Choi Seongho, who claims to be an editor at a North Korean newspaper currently studying in Beijing.
Business Insider reports that the account appears to be run by, or at least inspired by, the same person who runs an infamous account on Sina Weibo that has been featured a number of times in the Chinese press.
Many observers, the website writes, believe the account is actually satirical, with the one blog describing Seongho as a "master Internet troll" last year.
David Bandurski, a project researcher at Hong Kong University's China Media Project told Business Insider he didn't believe the account was serious.
"Unless a reliable source at Tencent can confirm their identity," Bandurski wrote, "this is highly suspect."
Jang's death was first announced via a state news agency on 13 December.
The release from the Korean Central News Agency of DPRK described him as “despicable human scum, who was worse than a dog” and confirmed his execution – assumed, though not specified to have been via firing squad.