Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Half-baked men, hooligans and other insults from North Korea


By Jon Herskovitz

The end of the Bush administration will likely bring an end to one of my favourite guilty pleasures of reporting on North Korea, which is the verbal battle between Washington and Pyongyang. Prickly North Korea will undoubtedly fire rhetorical volleys at Barack Obama’s team but it may be hard to match the vitriolic language it has levelled at the administration of outgoing President George W. Bush, which in North Korean parlance is “a bunch of tricksters and political imbeciles who are the center of a plot breeding fraud and swindle”.

The Bush administration came into office pledging to take a tough line toward Pyongyang to force it to end its nuclear weapons programme, stop threatening its neighbours with ballistic missiles and halt human rights abuses that are regarded as some of the worst in the world. North Korea bristles at any criticism of its leaders or its communist system. It unleashed its first insults directed at Bush weeks into his presidency in 2001, after his team labelled the North a dangerous state.   

In 2002, Bush bracketed the communist state of Kim Jong-il with Iran and pre-war Iraq as being part of an axis of evil. Later that year, according to Newsweek magazine, Bush astonished a meeting of Republican senators by launching a vivid personal attack on the North Korean leader. Newsweek quoted Bush as saying: “He’s starving his own people, and imprisoning intellectuals in a Gulag the size of Houston.” It said the president had called Kim a “pygmy” and compared him to a “spoiled child at a dinner table”.

The North shot back and called the United States an “empire of evil”. U.S. officials then called the North “an outpost of tyranny” and “a criminal state”.