In an age of hypersensitivity to sexism and homophobia, why does the North Korean regime escape censure? North Korean media specialize in a gutter rhetoric that, from any other source, would be met with immediate condemnation. The world, however, seems so accustomed to hearing astonishingly repellent remarks from the North Korean propagandists that now anything goes.
President Obama’s recent trip to Seoul, to shore up the alliance at a time of North Korean missile firings and the threat of another nuclear test, elicited insults from Pyongyang directed not only at South Korea’s female President Park Geun-hye but also at President Obama himself. After the Obama-Park April 25 meeting, Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), quoting the Committee for Peaceful Reunification of Korea, stated that “Park Geun-hye’s recent behavior with Obama was like an immature girl begging gangsters to beat up someone she doesn’t like or a crafty prostitute eagerly trying to frame someone by giving her body to a powerful pimp.”
On May 2, KCNA became even more loathsome in a public rant condemning President Park and her administration for the recent tragic sinking of the ferry “Sewol” in which over 300, mainly high school students from the same school, perished. The KCNA report brands President Park as “the owner of a grave keeper’s cottage” and as being just like “a rabid dog keen on biting others.” The report continues with a racial slur against Obama, with KCNA attacking Park for “inviting her American master reminiscent of a wicked black monkey to visit South Korea on April 25th.”
Such crude racist and sexist language would not be tolerated from any other source. Has an American president, perhaps with the exception of wartime, ever been so demeaned by the official media of a foreign government? Yet the assumption in Washington seems to continue to be “well, it’s just the North Koreans again.”
The National Security Council did issue a rather tepid response, after media coverage of the verbal attacks by both Josh Stanton’s on-line blog “OneFreeKorea” and a report by Chico Harlan of the Washington Post. “While the North Korean Government-controlled media are distinguished by their histrionics, these comments are particularly ugly and disrespectful,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council. Not exactly Churchillian.
According to an April 28 report by NKNews.org, President Park was also labeled with the historically inflammatory word “Comfort Woman” by Pyongyang media after her meeting with President Obama. (Right- wing deniers in Japan may wish to take note as their own past insensitive remarks on “Comfort Women”—women and girls used as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese military during the Second World War—could put them in the same company with the sexist slanderers in Pyongyang.)
NKNews.org also notes that other North Korean insults aimed at the South Korean President have included: “an old hen,” “spinster” (President Park has never married and has no children), “babbling like an old peasant woman,” and “bitch.” Why is there almost complete silence over the official statements of a foreign government which are blatantly offensive and insult both the American president and a U.S. ally?
When former President George W. Bush used the terminology “axis of evil” to refer to North Korea in his 2002 State of the Union address, he was roundly criticized in the media for allegedly making talks with Pyongyang more difficult. And Pyongyang has repeatedly complained, in the now suspended Six-Party Talks, about the purported “hostile intent” of the United States. There has, however, never been an occasion where an American official referred to Kim Jong-un, his father or grandfather as “a pimp” or “a monkey.”
There seems to be no limit, in contrast, to the level of insults employed by the North Korean regime against those who displease it. Pyongyan referred to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as “a minister in a skirt.” Former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was once called “human scum who earned ill-fame as an anti-communist fanatic.” Former South Korean President Lee Myung-bak was often referred to as “a rat,” with tens of thousands of cadres at one Pyongyang rally screaming for his death.