In a series of unconfirmed reports, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un has been said to have executed his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, by having him stripped naked and fed to a pack of 120 starved hounds. The execution follows Thaek’s removal from office under accusations of treason in December.
Thaek, who was instrumental in Kim’s transition to power following the death of his father Kim Jong Ill, was labeled a “traitor” by North Korean state news agencies who said he was “worse than a dog.”
The report originated when NBC picked up on the story from Chinese news group Wen Wei Poe, which reported that Thaek and five of his closest aides were “completely eaten up” over the course of several hours. Though unconfirmed, some are seeing this as – beyond the obvious grotesque nature of the action – a possible move on Kim’s part to consolidate his power further, a hallmark of his family’s bloody legacy.
This Kim regime, much like his father’s, has made a name itself through its continually aggressive and erratic behavior, leading to it become the center of an international rumor mill. Earlier reports regarding the execution of his uncle and staff claimed that two of Thaek’s senior aides had been executed by anti-aircraft machine guns – known for their particularly large, high-speed rounds and rates of fire – all of which have come after a strenuous 2013 that was filled with threats of war and nuclear missile tests.
Many observers of regional international relations have noted the behavior of North Korea beginning to drive wedges between the Kim regime and its traditional allies in Beijing, as China’s economic and global influence grow throughout the rest of the international community.
The charges leveled against Thaek, which led to his removal from power and execution range from those of drug abuse and personal indiscretions, all the way to plans of treason and sedition. Though little is truly known about the highly reclusive North Korean regime and it’s ruling family, previous regime temperament in regards to such horrifying executions as well as the variety of presumably trumped-up charges used to justify such, suggest that the original offense could be anything or nothing at all.
Regardless of the motivation and bearing in mind these preliminary reports are still unverified (and may never be verified given the secretive nature of the country,) it is not a great stretch of the imagination to presume it to be true. Reports throughout the decade have trickled out exposing a regular practice of the regime to use political prisoners from its massive gulag and prison camp networks, as test subjects for their chemical weapons arsenals.
Should this prove to be a matter of internal power consolidation by Kim, it can be expected to serve as a powerful message throughout his government moving forward. Many in the South of the peninsula are watching the young Kim’s actions carefully after a year fraught with threats of resumed warfare between north and south.
As China distances itself from the regime, some fear the North Korean dictator may grow desperate at the prospect of losing his only regional ally. In any case, analysts are expected to continue to watch the rogue nation carefully as this new year gets underway.
Update: According Business Insider, this may be a false story started by a “satirical Tweet.”