Friday fun: KCNA and the random insult generator

Though quite familiar to veteran DPRK-watchers, the “colorful” language that fills North Korea’s official news was the subject of a humorous story in the BBC  last week.

According to the article:

A government official recently claimed that North Korea’s official state media has insulted the South Korean president more than 1,700 times this year alone.

That is an average of 10 insults a day.

He is variously called “a lackey”, “a stooge”, “a dictator” and the leader of “a gang of traitors”.

The official admitted that the jibes were sometimes “downright silly”.

At times of extreme hostility the language turns flamboyant, even poetic.

America sank so low in 2003, according to state radio, that even the “piles of manure in the fields” were “fuming out the smoke of hatred.”

It is strong stuff, no doubt, but sometimes the outside world can be tempted to analyse too deeply.

And why do the insults sound so antiquated?

Joo Sung-ha, the defector turned South Korean journalist, says there is an easy explanation for North Korea’s use of seemingly antiquated words like “brigandish” to refer to its opponents.

“They’re using old dictionaries,” he says.

“Many were published in the 1960s with meanings that have now fallen out of use, and there are very few first-language English speakers available to make the necessary corrections.”

So, while North Korea’s rhetoric is certainly worthy of analysis, perhaps we shouldn’t be too alarmed by every outburst.

Further thoughts:

1. For those interested, I posted a copy of Let’s Learn Korean which I bought on my last trip to Pyongyang. It contains many linguistic gems. Download it here.

2. All of these colorful metaphors can be easily found using the invaluable STALIN search engine which helps readers search the KCNA for specific stories.  This is especially useful for researchers who need to count the number of times someone’s name is mentioned in the North Korean media.  The STALIN search engine also has a humorous Random Insult Generator and Juche/Gregorian calendar converter.

3. Joshua has also invented the KCNA drinking game.

4. And let’s not forget the entrepreneurial individual who posts KCNA headlines to Twitter.


Comments are closed.