Should You Believe The Reports Saying A North Korean Official Was Shot Dead Over COVID-19?

There have been similar cases of many high-ranking officials in North Korea, the so-called "hermit kingdom", who were believed to have been "executed" only to come back from the dead.

Cover image via Daily Mail & National Post

Since Friday, 14 February, social media sites and tabloids have been running a report that a North Korean official has been shot dead

According to the reports, the alleged execution of the official was carried out after he removed himself from quarantine where he was placed over coronavirus fears as he had recently returned from China.

The official is said to have used a public bath, an action that allegedly sparked such anger that he was arrested and immediately shot to death for risking the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Among the reports, Canada's National Post and the UK's Daily Mail claimed that North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un has vowed to "rule by military law" against anyone who left quarantine without approval.

A screenshot showing the reports by Daily Mail and National Post.

Image via SAYS

A Malaysian social media site also picked up the report and ran a story with a headline that — in parts — read how a coronavirus patient in North Korea was "SHOT DEAD for Escaping Quarantine".

However, what seems to have missed everyone's attention is that all the reports are citing a single source named Dong-a Ilbo (East Asia Daily), a right-wing and conservative newspaper from South Korea

None of the reports has any other corroborating source about the alleged "execution".

More importantly, the tabloids and social media sites that have been reporting on it all have questionable past when it comes to covering verifiable news.

And given how North Korea is famously dubbed as the "hermit kingdom", outside media have picked up anything that sounds remotely sensational without worrying about accuracy.

Why it's important is because there have been similar cases of many high-ranking officials in the so-called "hermit kingdom" who were believed to have been "executed" only to come back from the dead

For example, just last year, a South Korean newspaper claimed that North Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Kim Hyok Chol was executed at an airport in Pyongyang by firing squad over a failed Hanoi summit.

He was North Korea's special envoy to the United States (US) and had appeared at the summit in Hanoi held in February 2019 between Kim Jong-un and the US President Donald Trump.

About three months later, the "executed" official turned up looking alive and well.

Image via CNN

It is not to say that North Korea has not carried out executions in the past. In fact, one of the most high-profile cases of execution involves Kim Jong-un's uncle, Jang Song-thaek. He was executed for treason.

However, contrary to reports that the execution was done by having him stripped naked and fed to a pack of 120 starving dogs, the once-powerful uncle was killed by a firing squad.

The so-called "fed to dogs" story, also reported by SAYS, actually originated with a satirical post.

Jang Song-thaek pictured beside Kim Jong-un.

Image via BBC

And while it's also true that given the secrecy maintained by North Korea, some of the claims are incredibly difficult to verify.

However, more often than not, these claims about executions are not just very wrong, reports about them have turned out to be fake news.

Take, for example, the case of singer Hyon Song-wol, who was Kim Jong-un's girlfriend.

A South Korean newspaper in 2013 told us that the North Korean leader executed her for making porn. It said that she had been shot in a "hail of machine-gun fire while members of her orchestra looked on".

However, five years later in 2018, an "executed" Hyon Song-wol was seen looking very alive while leading a visiting North Korean delegation ahead of the Winter Olympics in South Korea.

In this photo dated 15 January 2018, Hyon Song-wol, who is the leader of North Korea's all-female band Moranbong, is seen attending inter-Korean working-level talks at the border village of Panmunjom.

Image via Straits Times

Another example is the case of Kim Jong-un's dear aunt Kim Kyong-hui.

In 2015, CNN reported that the blood-relative of the North Korean leader was ordered to be poisoned.

But, once again, the truth is less sensational. The "poisoned aunt" is alive in Pyongyang.

And in January this year, she attended a concert with the North Korean leader, his wife, and other officials to mark the Lunar New Year holiday at the Samjiyon Theater in Pyongyang.

Kim Kyong-hui is seen here alongside Kim Jong-un at Lunar New Year concert in January 2020.

Image via KCNA/NK News

Meanwhile, photos of a Chinese man eating a dead baby's foetus has been in circulation for almost two decades on the Internet:

Read more updates on the COVID-19 outbreak on SAYS: