Seoul, South Korea | AFP | America’s President is many things to many people but “mentally deranged US dotard” is perhaps the most memorable of names to have yet been coined for the billionaire reality television star-turned world leader.
Kim Jong-Un’s rhetorical flourish might seem like an outlandish tongue-lashing of the US leader, but it is rather tame compared to the florid language normally deployed by Pyongyang’s official Korean Central News Agency, which is peppered with flamboyant, imaginative and often antiquated language.
Taking aim at perceived adversaries, KCNA has labelled former US President George W. Bush a “half-baked man”, ex-South Korean leader Park Geun-Hye a “crafty prostitute”, and called previous US leader Barack Obama her “pimp”.
Trump has traded tough rhetoric with Pyongyang as it pushed an increasingly brazen weapons programme in recent months, with missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test.
Calling Kim a “madman” and “Rocket Man”, he first threatened Pyongyang with “fire and fury”, but this week scaled up, saying Washington would “totally destroy” the North if it threatened the US or its allies.
Kim’s retort published on Friday was unusual for its outraged personal tone but it contained many of the familiar KCNA tropes, calling Trump “a rogue and a gangster”.
But it was the “dotard” reference that had people reaching for their reference books, according to online dictionary Merriam Webster, which tweeted: “Kim Jong Un calls Trump a mentally deranged U.S. dotard. Searches for ‘dotard’ are high as a kite.”
In the original Korean version, which is often far stronger than the official KCNA English declarations, the “dotard” quote can be more directly translated as calling Trump an “old lunatic”.
Observers joke that much of KCNA’s English seems to have been sourced with the help of an ancient dictionary.
Some of its pronouncements verge on the Shakespearean.
In 2013, about two years after the young North Korean leader took power, Kim had his influential uncle and mentor, Jang Song-Thaek, executed for treason.
The official KCNA report of the execution called Jang “despicable human scum… who was worse than a dog” and said he “perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery in betrayal” against Kim and the ruling party.
KCNA devoted particular venom to the South’s former leader Park, often focused on her gender.
In 2014, while accusing her of being a “whore” for Obama, it blasted her criticism of its weapons programme as “froth(ing) at the mouth”.
Pyongyang had earlier likened her to a “peasant woman babbling to herself in the corner of her room”.
So well established is the state media’s reputation for bilious invective, one website nk-news.net has compiled a back catalogue of some its most exquisite exhortations and hosts a satirical random insult generator.
But the lurid prose of the North’s media sometimes tiptoes towards poetry.
This week, the Minju Joson state newspaper railed against tough new penalties imposed on the country for its weapons programme.
“The U.S. sanctions on the DPRK will prove futile and it will be just like sweeping the sea with (a) broom,” it said.