Got a Light?

The theatrics of North Korea’s repressive regime never fail to get attention, but Monday’s news raised — or lowered — the bar.

According to this report (external - login to view) in one of South Korea’s leading newspapers, The Chosun Ilbo, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s administration shuttered a bureaucracy once headed by Kim’s recently-executed uncle and killed or imprisoned 11 high-ranking officials.

The morbid twist: Quoting an anonymous source, the paper reported that O Sang Hon, the deputy public security minister, was “executed by flamethrower.”

If true, the killing shows the chilling lengths to which Kim is willing to go to expunge any trace of his executed uncle, Jang Song Thaek, once a powerful player in North Korean politics. Now, months after Jang’s execution and his temporary erasure (external - login to view) from state media, Jang’s older sister and her husband — North Korea’s ambassador to Cuba, Jon Yong Jin — have also reportedly (external - login to view) been executed.

But if the story’s false, it would be at least the third time in as many months that an apocryphal tale involving North Korea has caught fire in today’s media, which rewards outlandish stories — regardless of their veracity — with clicks, shares and likes.

Earlier this year, Western media outlets incorrectly reported (external - login to view) that Kim had unleashed 120 starving dogs on political rivals as a means of execution. This initial NBC News (external - login to view) report earned 44,000 likes. The network’s piece refuting its earlier report (external - login to view) published three days later got fewer than 200.

Then, last month, another report (external - login to view) emerged saying that that Kim had decreed all men must emulate his business-on-the-sides, party-on-the-top haircut. It was also false (external - login to view).

North Korean official reportedly executed with a flamethrower (external - login to view)
Brings a whole new meaning to the term "firing" somebody.

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