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N. Korea Tones Down Rhetoric vs. President Lee

Posted August. 07, 2009 08:19,   


North Korea since last month has toned down its harsh rhetoric against South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, possibly signaling a change in Pyongyang’s policy toward Seoul.

Based on an analysis of reports from Pyongyang`s Korean Central Broadcasting Station and Radio Pyongyang, the South Korean government said yesterday that the North’s slander of President Lee declined 40 percent in number last month.

Such attacks had peaked in June, when the U.N. Security Council stepped up sanctions against North Korea after it conducted its second nuclear test. Pyongyang blasted President Lee 293 times in January, 335 in March, and 454 in June but just 275 last month.

A Seoul official said, “Not only did the number of denunciations decline but also the level of state organizations that criticized President Lee became lower. In addition, the contents of the denunciations grew milder.”

“North Korea seems to be following our government’s request to stop criticizing President Lee to resume sincere inter-Korean dialogue.”

Pyongyang began denouncing President Lee from April 1 last year, starting with an editorial carried by the official daily Rodong Shinmun, the mouthpiece of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party. The number of blasts against the president significantly increased in October last year, when North Korean leader Kim Jong Il reappeared in public after allegedly suffering a stroke two months earlier.

The Stalinist country denounced President Lee 2,146 times from April through December last year, or an average of eight times a day, and 2,144 in the first seven months of this year, or about 10 per day.

The decline in the North’s verbal attacks come at a time when both Koreas have reportedly begun negotiating the release of a detained South Korean worker and bolstering economic exchanges, including the resumption of tours to Mount Kumgang in the North.

Pyongyang acknowledged June 13 resuming its uranium enrichment program, and has since refrained from issuing hostile rhetoric against Seoul or Washington.