You’ve either seen the articles being shared on Facebook or have read them in passing or, heck, you could’ve even been one of those who followed East Asia Tribune’s (EAT) 3-part “Five Nights in Pyongyang” or “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series.

Or both. Religiously.

Subbuilding of PotongGang hotel (Source: panoramio.com/user/182175(
Subbuilding of Potonggang hotel (Source: panoramio.com/user/182175)

So your heart broke with the rest of the world’s when award-winning journalist Chu Jingyi and Sun-Young’s escape from North Korea was foiled in the final instalment of “Five Miles from the DPRK Border”, bringing the trilogy to an abrupt halt. Your frustrations with the entire North Korean fiasco escalated when Chu was unable to produce the latest piece of the “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series because he had to go into hiding.

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We know that feel, bro. We were waiting for the final instalment of “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series too.

Perhaps today, you mourned for real (tears and all) when EAT reported that Chu Jingyi was assassinated in an attack by North Korean agents in Kuala Lumpur.

Kuala Lumpur
Source: Wikimedia

An excerpt from the said report reads, “Award-winning EAT journalist Chu Jingyi, author of the Five Nights in Pyongyang series, has been killed in an apparent attack by North Korean agents in Kuala Lumpur. Chu had been based at a safe house in the Malaysian capital while he finished writing the final instalment of his Five Miles From The DPRK Border report. According to witness testimony, Chu had been dining at a restaurant with several associates on the busy Jalan Ampang when a white van pulled up outside and a group of armed men stormed out.”

The report went as far as quoting a witness to the killing, who apparently spoke to the media and said that “Chu’s female companion appeared to be pregnant”, leading readers to think that the female companion is none other than Sun-Young, tugging even more at people’s heartstrings.

East Asia Tribune Chu Jingyi Kuala Lumpur
Source: East Asia Tribune

Now, if you read the “Five Nights in Pyongyang” or “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series, particularly the “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series, your heart will go out to Sun-Young. So young, much drama, how tragic!

The article was shared on EAT’s Facebook page, garnering just over a hundred shares (at time of writing) in about 6 hours – and counting.

And you believed it, just like you believed the “Five Nights in Pyongyang” or “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series because apparently, EAT, Asia’s largest and most trusted media organisation with offices in 23 countries throughout the region, can tell no lies.

East Asia Tribune Chu Jingyi Executed
Source: East Asia Tribune

This is despite the fact that no other news outlets in Malaysia have picked up on the news or verified it, and despite the fact that the murder happened right under our noses “at a restaurant on the busy Jalan Ampang” and yet nothing has turned up on social media.

One Facebook user commented on EAT’s Facebook post, perhaps in an effort to verify the news:

East Asia Tribune Jason Ong
Click to enlarge

This was supported by a comment from another Facebook user, one named Tammy Ling, who quickly swooped in to help verify the news:

East Asia Tribune Tammy Ling
Click to enlarge

Both Jason and Tammy were urged by other commenters for a link or a source to the reports. Alas, to no avail.

Tammy simply replied one of the commenters, “It just came up on the TV” so perhaps non-BBC-watchers just missed the golden window of opportunity to watch it unfold? While Jason claimed that he saw in on “local news report” in Klang. We’re not sure if that means that the news was only reported via some elusive news report channel in Klang or that 30 million Malaysians (save for Jason Ong in Klang) conveniently missed that window too because we scoured the comments for more claims of “seen on television” but nothing else turned up.

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Fun fact: Both Jason and Tammy‘s Facebook profiles are spotless. By that, we mean that they’re either extremely private people because of the lack of public activities (shared posts, status updates, photos, etc.) or the accounts are new/fake. Jason recently updated his profile picture on 22nd May 2016 while Tammy updated hers on 21st May 2016. Both their cover photos were changed on the same day, 17th May 2016, within minutes of each other.

Coincidence? Maybe.

But wait, there was this one comment by a fellow Malaysian that casted doubt over EAT’s content which raised suspicions. In Kian Tong Lim’s now-deleted comment (as seen in screenshot), presumably by EAT’s Facebook page admin, he asked what was Chu Jingyi doing in “the busy Jalan Ampang” in the first place if he was supposed to be in a safe house:

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

The man has a point.

Okay, let’s backtrack a little.

EAT claims that it has a history stretching back to 1972 and has since grown into Asia’s largest and most trusted media organisation with offices in 23 countries across the region and around the world. So we can’t even begin to understand how their Twitter has less than 100 followers and their Facebook, just slightly over 4,000 fans. Not a tad too below average for such an esteemed news publication?

East Asia Tribune Twitter
Source: East Asia Tribune’s Twitter

Also, note how we didn’t source the “original source” of the Potonggang hotel exterior shot above (first picture in this post) and instead gave credit to the real source? Same goes for this next one (of the waitresses, below), which is originally copyrighted to Brian J. McMorrow but was used in this EAT article.

Did the great Chu Jingyi really need to lift images off other random people to complement his groundbreaking investigative pieces?

Waitresses at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, Pyongyang (Source: pbase.com/image/116358151)
Waitresses at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, Pyongyang (Source: pbase.com/image/116358151)

And the plot thickens.

When EAT supposedly held a press conference to “share the latest developments regarding missing EAT journalist, Chu Jingyi”, it was attended by some press representatives. In fact, EAT editor Alec Ustinov even opened the floor for questions from journalists attending the press conference. Unfortunately, there were no non-EAT articles of the sensational press conference ever taking place. If you entered “Chu Jingyi” in a Google search and hit the “News” tab, nothing turns up. At all.

By the way, it wasn’t hard to go through all the search results because it only spans 3 pages.

Chu Jingyi Press Conference News
Source: Google News Search

If you’d like to dig even deeper, allow us.

EAT’s address, as listed on their website, is fake. East Asia Tribune Tower 444 Century Ave, Pudong 200135, Shanghai, China? We’re no pros when it comes to navigating Shanghai despite have been there just last year, but according to Google Maps, there’s no such tower, and no such number (444).

East Asia Tribune Tower 444 Century Avenue Shanghai
Source: Google Maps

And if you ran a WHOIS check on eastasiatribune.com, you’d realise that the domain was purchased in March 2016. To be more specific, on 23rd March 2016. EAT’s first Facebook post is dated 24th March 2016.

Really now? Asia’s largest and most trusted media organisation with offices in 23 countries across the region and around the world, with history dating back to 1972, only decided to keep up with the extremely fast-paced digital world this year?

East Asia Tribune WHOIS
Click to enlarge (Source: whois.domaintools.com/eastasiatribune.com)

Do you see where it says “WHOIS PRIVACY PROTECTION SERVICE, INC.”? Why would a legit news organisation use a privacy protection service based in Washington to register a domain name? Compare this with The New York Times.

Currently, there are ongoing Quorra and reddit discussions about EAT and its articles. An Associated Press Asia correspondent has also questioned the authenticity of EAT’s article. Furthermore, someone else called out one of EAT’s other articles (“Singapore Family Insist On Observing Son Make Love For The First Time“) to be a hoax.

Which is fair because how did anyone miss that clearly photoshopped dummy on the left side of the featured image?

Singapore Family Insist On Observing Son Make Love For The First Time
Source: East Asia Tribune

On a funnier note, at the bottom of the EAT website, it states, “Headquartered in Shanghai, the EAT Group has media investments throughout Greater China and East Asia, and is a founding member of the Asia News Union Service”. Just so you know, the acronym for “Asia News Union Service” is ANUS.

To add on, Chu Jingyi, when written in Chinese, is “吃精液”, which can be translated to:

Chu Jingyi 吃精液 Translation
Source: Google Translate

Yup.

Don’t mind us. For what it’s worth, the “Five Nights in Pyongyang” or “Five Miles from the DPRK Border” series are really interesting reads, thanks to the good writing. But whether the stories, the now-Pulitzer-Prize-nominated Chu Jingyi’s murder, and EAT as a whole are legit, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, we’ve reached out to Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar for comment on the news of Chu Jingyi’s “assassination” in Kuala Lumpur. We’ll update this post if/when we get a response.

Feature image: Wikimedia.

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Lainey
Eats, sleeps, & breathes music, but drinks mostly coffee & okay, some wine - sometimes, a little too much. A little too obsessed with the number seven, is deathly afraid of horror movies, believes that she writes better than she speaks, & currently feeling a little strange writing a profile about herself.