A disturbing rumor emerged out of China last week, and if true, Kim Jong-un is even scarier than we thought. According to Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, the North Korea dictator's uncle, whom Kim had executed last month, was reportedly eaten alive by half-starved dogs. Until now, it had been assumed that Jang Song Thaek had been killed by firing squad, the typical method of execution in North Korea.
Jang had been accused of "attempting to overthrow the state," after having served for many years as a key advisor for the Kim dynasty. At his execution, Kim also accused him of corruption, womanizing, gambling, and drug use before calling him "despicable human scum."
The method of execution was not specified in the official North Korean report released last month. But if this report is true, it was gruesome: According to Hong Kong newspaper Wen Wei Po, Kim allegedly stripped Jang and five other aides naked and threw them into a cage with 120 hunting dogs that had not been fed for five days. 300 officials reportedly watched as the dogs ate their human prey over the course of an hour.
Still, there are reasons to be speculative about this report. Because North Korea is so restricted about sharing information, it's near-impossible to confirm such stories (NBC News tried and failed to do so.) Additionally, as TIME points out, other reporting on Jang doesn't necessarily support the rumor: Jang was executed by "traditional means," stated the New York Times at the time.
However, as TIME writes: "The version of events jibes well with media accounts that portray Kim Jong Un as a Dr. Evil-esque figure, a clownish, brutal young despot that finds amusement in wielding his terrible power." Adds Emily Rauhala: "It feels possible that such an over-the-top crime would warrant an over-the-top punishment."
Meanwhile, the world's most unlikely diplomat, Dennis Rodman, is set to visit his "friend for life" on Jan. 8, when North Korea basketball players will reportedly play NBA players in an exhibition game for Kim's birthday. We hope Rodman knows what he's doing...