The uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was allegedly stripped naked and fed alive along with five aides to 120 starving dogs, according to a gruesome but disputed report that is circling the world's media.
"Unlike previous executions of political prisoners which were carried out by firing squads with machine guns, Jang [Song Thaek] was stripped naked and thrown 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," wrote the Straits Times of Singapore. It based its story on a detailed account from December in the Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Wei Po. NBC News and other major media have now reported on it.
Jang was executed last month after he was deemed a traitor and accused of trying to overthrow the ruling government. North Korean officials removed him from his position as No. 2 in the country and accused him of participating in corruption, gambling, womanizing, and drug use while visiting a foreign country.
The execution was condemned by international powers including the U.S. government, with White House spokesman Jay Carney saying that it is indicative of "the values of the regime, their low regard for human life, and what is probably the worst human rights record in the world, and that's saying something."
Kim, however, defended the decision during his New Year's address on Wednesday:
"In the seething period of the effort for building a thriving country last year, we took the resolute measure of removing the factionalists lurking in the Party," the North Korean leader said, according to text from state media, referring to the North's ruling Workers' Party of Korea.
"As our Party detected and purged the anti-Party, counterrevolutionary factionalists at an opportune time and with a correct decision, the Party and revolutionary ranks were further consolidated and our single-hearted unity was solidified to the maximum."
As for the "execution by dogs" story, the ordeal reportedly lasted for an hour, and was personally supervised by Kim and 300 other senior officials.
Some have questioned the validity of the report, however, with Washington Post's Max Fisher pointing out that a lot of stories from North Korea are treated as credible "no matter how outlandish or thinly sourced" they might be.
He gave six detailed reasons for why he believes the story may not be true, noting that there is a lack of cited sources in the original Wen Wei Po report, and that Hong Kong media "have a reputation for sensationalist and tabloidy stories that do not always turn out to be true."
Yahoo News also pointed out that the story is being disputed on several media sites, and other sources have claimed that Jang was shot dead instead though it was noted that there have indeed been reports of some North Korean defectors sharing tales of specially trained dogs used to maul prisoners in the Pacific nation's brutal prison camps.