The story about North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un feeding his "traitorous" uncle to a pack of starving dogs, was met with a healthy bit of skepticism (and a lot of morbid fascination), but no one was even sure how such a story came to be. Now, internet sleuths may have tracked down the original source of the story — and it might have been a social media joke.
It turns out everyone might have been smearing Kim Jong-un's
good name, but the story of outrageous probably came from a Chinese satirist who posted it on the country's biggest social media site, Reuters explains.
A Chicago-based software engineer named Trevor Powell wrote a lengthy blog post explaining that the "story" first appeared on the satirical Weibo account "Pyongyang Choi Seongho," which had previously made jokes along the lines of the U.S. being thankful for Kim Jong-un on Thanksgiving. That joke got circulated on Weibo, and was picked up by Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po news agency, which published it as a straight news story. That led to a Singapore's Straits Times story which everyone (including The Wire) jumped on and spread around the globe. All the while, no one outside of China seemed to realize "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 wrote.
The story spread so far because, well, Kim feeding his uncle to dogs isn't that far removed from the stories we hear about North Korea on what seems like a daily basis (see: unicorns, human rights violations, denial of human rights violations, etc.). And the satire fit into the cultural portrait and consciousness of what we think we know (and what we want to believe) about North Korea.
We had pointed out that there were some skeptics, like The Washington Post's Max Fisher who had explained that factors like time and South Korea's silence on the story should have alerted us to the hoax. And Powell's insight bolsters that argument.
It's unclear whether or not Kim appreciates this debunking and clarification (or the suggestion for a horrible torture), or if he spent all weekend explaining to friends that he isn't the monster everyone says he is.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.