The vilification of South Korean President Lee Myung-bak by North Korean state propaganda has gone to absurd lengths. This brief report from Fareed Zakaria has film of a Lee dummy being attacked by dogs, run over by a tank, and the disembodied head finally being stoned by an angry mob. The South Koreans are generally a placid bunch, used to the taunts and tantrums from north of the border, but it's getting harder and harder to ignore the madness:
The South Korean government says North Korea "has gone beyond reason" in its daily diet of verbal abuse of the Lee Myung-bak administration in the state media.
It is now a daily routine for North Korean military units to practice shooting and bayonet charge using pictures or effigies of Lee as targets. The North's official KCNA news agency last Friday reported on the People's Internal Security Forces, or armed police troops, letting dogs loose at a military dog training school so that they bit effigies of Lee and South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin.
Late last month the news agency carried a vivid report of the damage Lee effigies sustained at organized rallies in various regions.
The government has been trying to ignore the bizarre campaign, but on Thursday Unification Ministry spokesman Kim Hyung-suk told reporters it "has gone beyond reason."
"The regime has been spewing verbal abuse of the South to deflect discontent" since lackluster celebrations of regime founder Kim Il-sung's centenary finished, a South Korean security official said. "The regime's near-insane behavior reflects the unease of leader Kim Jong-un and the new leadership."
He's probably right about that, but many would welcome a stronger response.
Some experts here are unhappy with the Unification Ministry's attempts to ignore the insults, saying it betrays a dangerous lack of commitment to national security.
"Only when we keep such cases on file can we put them on the table as evidence in future inter-Korean talks, calling on the regime to prevent recurrence of similar incidents, punish those responsible, and change its attitude," a former ministry official said.
Though if a former ministry official really thinks that the North Korean regime can be persuaded to change its attitude and punish those responsible, then it's not just the one side that's lost touch with reality.