The United States has condemned “ugly and disrespectful” racist comments directed towards US President Barack Obama by North Korea’s official KCNA news agency.
In a recently published screed, North Korea calls Obama a “crossbreed” with the “figure of a monkey”, a “dirty fellow” and somebody who “does not even have the basic appearances of a human being”.
“While the North Korean government-controlled media are distinguished by their histrionics, these comments are particularly ugly and disrespectful,” US National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said. Unlike most articles published by the agency, this one was not translated into English.
Rarely has Pyongyang so ferociously – and personally – attacked a US leader. “He is a crossbreed with unclear blood,” North Korea says. And Obama “still has the figure of monkey while the human race has evolved through millions of years”. It adds: “It would be perfect for Obama to live with a group of monkeys in the world’s largest African natural zoo and lick the breadcrumbs thrown by spectators.”
The diatribe, published on May 2, almost escaped foreign attention. But Josh Stanton, who blogs regularly about human rights violations in North Korea, uncovered the Korean-only piece, as well as a separate, milder article that was translated into English and in which Obama was called a “wicked black monkey”.
The Korean-only piece – headlined, “Divine retribution for the juvenile delinquent Obama!” – featured four lengthy passages, each attributed to a regular citizen. In North Korea, quotations of citizens are state-sanctioned and often spoon-fed by the government’s propaganda department, analysts say.
Some academics, including American Brian Myers of Dongseo University in Busan, South Korea, argue that North Koreans fundamentally have a “race-based” world view, showing more similarity to Japan during the second world war than Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union.
Myers condenses North Korea’s state orthodoxy into a sentence: “The Korean people are too pure-blooded, and therefore too virtuous, to survive in this evil world without a great parental leader.”
North Korean women often cross into China looking for work; if those women become pregnant and are repatriated to North Korea, they are subject to either forced abortions or infanticide.
The UN said in a recent human rights report that this practice points “to an underlying belief in a pure Korean race ... to which mixed-race children (of ethnic Koreans) are considered a contamination of its pureness”.
Last month, the state news agency lashed out against the openly gay leading author of the UN human rights report, calling him a “disgusting old lecher”.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse