I'm not the only one to have noticed the vicious rat-themed invective coming out of North Korea against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak. Aidan Foster-Carter tries to make some sense of it in a piece at Comparative Connections (pdf):
Wading through filth is no fun, but duty must be done. In what follows we describe and try to interpret North Korea’s campaign, which as the trimester ended showed ominous signs of escalating from words to deeds in attacks on South Korea’s Global Position System (GPS) signals. In some obscure way, one intended function was probably to boost the callow Kim Jong Un. [...]
He [Lee Myung-bak] was first likened to a rat by KCNA in several reports on April 20. One, headlined “DPRK People Vow to Wipe out S. Korean Regime”, quoted enraged citizens such as KPA officer Jo Hun Gil: “We can no longer stand the behavior of the Lee Myung Bak group of rats. Such a group should be beaten to jelly at once.” KCNA added: “He didn’t hold his temper to use vulgar words unable to repeat.” (sic) With steelworker Ham Kyong Guk, it was back to the old canine slur: “Lee Myung Bak is worse than a beast and little different from scum. This rabid dog should be cut to pieces for insult to the dignity of our supreme leadership.” Pang Sun Im of Pyongyang, a woman carrying knives, clinched it: “I have bought these sharpened knives to stab to death the rat-likeLee Myung Bak group. My family is enough to cut this rat and its clan to pieces. It is my desire to dash to the south right now to kill all of those rats.”
Words however were not enough. On April 26, KCNA noted that “Cartoons Satirizing Rat-like Myung Bak Enjoy Popularity in DPRK.” This deserves quotation at some length:
The cartoon “Tear rattish Myung Bak to pieces!” portrays the tightly-gripped neck and body of rat-like Myung Bak and his bloody tongue at a last breathing. “Beat to death the rattish Myung Bak group of traitors!” and “Wipe out rat-like Myung Bak!” depict a rat being bayoneted. “Make clean sweep of the rattish traitors!” shows Lee in flames. “Beat rattish Myung Bak to a pulp!” pictures a sharpened axe cutting off Lee's neck …. The cartoons also include “Wipe out rattish Myung Bak, a dirt of history!”, “Beat to death rattish Myung Bak, a human rubbish and bastard!” and “Death to rattish Myung Bak!”
See the cartoons here. A sample:
A heretic has sneaked into the Korean nation. Not content with having brought all sorts of misfortunes to the south of Korea, the rat-like Lee Myung Bak is running amuck to defame the dignity of the north. It is regrettable for his late mother not to witness the high treason the bastard without nationality has committed. Cut into pieces with sharpened axe this rat running riot with no fear of god, to make clean of the territory at an early date.
Delightful stuff. Foster-Carter comments:
In an influential article a decade ago, my compatriot Hazel Smith argued against stereotyping North Korea as bad and mad, claiming instead that Pyongyang’s behavior is rational. Such a view is hard to square with this latest farrago, whose juvenile smut-and-slasher porn belongs in the realm of psychopathology. B R Myers’ acute observation that North Korea infantilizes its population...may need extending: perhaps it infantilizes its leaders as well. [...]
In sum, while one regrets dwelling on and in such sewage, it was necessary. The rat cartoons may raise a snigger, but I have not seen the whole anti-Lee campaign analyzed in any detail, as we have tried to do here. Bottom line: It isn’t funny, and it hits a new low for Pyongyang. But then, as David Niven said of Errol Flynn, you always know precisely where you stand with North Korea – because they always let you down....
Besides neither convincing nor impressing anyone, the DPRK’s shrill and rancid propaganda raises a further worrying question: Are the categories which they actually think with, behind the scenes, in Pyongyang just as crude and unsubtle as the terms that they employ in public? One would hope not, for all manner of reasons. But there is little evidence to the contrary.