MOSCOW • North Korea’s fury over anti-Pyongyang leaflets launched from the South is driven by “dirty, insulting” depictions of leader Kim Jong Un’s spouse, Russia’s envoy in the reclusive country has said.
In recent weeks, Pyongyang has issued a series of vitriolic condemnations over anti-North leaflets that defectors based in the South send across the militarised border.
The campaigns have long been a point of contention between the two Koreas, but this time, Pyongyang upped the pressure, blowing up a liaison office and threatening military measures.
One of the most recent launches – on May 31 – included provocative imagery of the North’s First Lady Ri Sol Ju, sparking “serious outrage” in Pyongyang, according to Russia’s Ambassador to North Korea Alexander Matsegora.
Russia is a key ally of the isolated North and Mr Matsegora is one of the longest-serving ambassadors in Pyongyang.
“The leaflets bore a special kind of dirty, insulting propaganda, aimed at the leader’s spouse,” Mr Matsegora told Russia’s Tass news agency on Monday. They were photoshopped “in such a low-grade way”, he added, and served as “the last straw” for the North.
Inter-Korean relations have been in deep freeze following the collapse of a summit between Mr Kim and United States President Donald Trump last year over what the nuclear-armed North would be willing to give up in exchange for a loosening of sanctions.
Pyongyang has now turned its anger against Seoul rather than Washington, despite three summits between the North’s leader and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who brokered the first Trump-Kim meeting in Singapore.
The impoverished country is subject to multiple United Nations Security Council sanctions over its banned weapons programmes.
The Russian diplomat also dismissed speculation that Mr Kim’s younger sister was being trained as the next leader of North Korea.
Since early June, Ms Kim Yo Jong – a key adviser to her brother – has been the face of Pyongyang’s highly aggressive stance towards the South over the leaflets.
North Korea blew up the liaison office just days after she warned it would soon be seen “completely collapsed”.