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Viral story about execution in North Korea lacks credibility

| Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Friday's viral Internet story claims that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had his uncle executed last month by stripping him naked and feeding him to 120 hungry dogs. The story since late Thursday has been sweeping through nearly every corner of the American media. The only problem: It's probably not true.

It was a surprise last month when South Korean intelligence revealed that Kim had purged his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, which North Korea confirmed a couple of days later with a long screed in its state media. The highly public nature of the purge, which ended with Pyongyang announcing Jang's execution, was totally unprecedented and legitimately shocking, a high bar for North Korea news.

There are five reasons that this story just does not seem particularly plausible:

• Consider the source. The story originated in a Hong Kong newspaper called Wen Wei Po, which makes the claim without citing a source. Out of Hong Kong's 21 newspapers, Wen Wei Po ranks 19th for credibility.

• The rest of the Chinese media have not touched this story in the almost-month since it came out.

• South Korea's media have not touched the story. Some of those outlets can be eager to pick up stories or rumors that portray North Korea in a negative light.

• The time lapse: This story has been around for almost a month, and it's not been anywhere near confirmed.

• The predominant story of what happened is much more plausible. Far more credible outlets with far more credible sourcing have consistently described Jang as having been executed by a firing squad.

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