North Korean dear leader Kim Jong Un is a sonofabitch who offed his uncle last month. But he likely didn't strip naked Uncle Jang and slowly feed him alive to a pack of 120 starving dogs, as the media excitedly reported last week. In fact, that entire frenzy may have originated in a tweeter's dark-humored imagination.

Conventional wisdom has it that Jang Song-thaek, once considered the second-most powerful man in North Korea, was ordered to be shot to death by his nephew after a violent dispute over kickbacks from the country's clam and crab fishing industries. Because nothing kicks your ass like bad shellfish.

But last week, news organizations went apeshit over a report that Jang and five associates were tied starkers to posts and devoured over days by a pack of dogs that had been systematically starved for the better part of a week. It got everyone, this outstanding publication included, lots of hits. But it was probably a lot of sheesh.

According to Trevor Powell, a software engineer and blogger raised in Taiwan, all that hubbub may have begun with a bad joke on Twitter. The earliest report of Jang's canine fate appears to have come from this Chinese tweet by a user who claims to be a satirist named Pyongyang Choi Seongho, who is apparently well-known for his irreverent humor. Here's a Google translation—all the usual caveats:

Not long after that tweet on December 11, the story found its way into the Chinese pro-government news site Wen Wei Po, quoting the tweet "word-for-word," Powell says:

A screenshot of the original tweet was included with the article on Wen Wei Po. The article also cites Pyongyang Choi Seongho by name as the original source. In addition to describing how Jang Songtaek and five accomplices were stripped naked, thrown in a cage, and fed to 120 wild dogs.

From Wen Wei Po, the dog myth made its way in English in the Hong Kong-base Straits Times around Christmastime, and everyone in the West subsequently freaked out about it.

What did we learn? "I'm reminded that language is always a barrier," Powell says of the slow-moving hoax. Sure, sure. Also, I still wouldn't fucking piss off Kim Jong Un.

[Photo credit: AP]