A look at Kim Jong Un's 'dotard' insult
Hyung-Jin Kim, The Associated Press
Published Friday, September 22, 2017 2:48AM EDT
Last Updated Friday, September 22, 2017 10:04PM EDT
It was used in an unusual direct statement from Kim that the Korean Central News Agency transmitted verbatim in response to Trump's speech at the UN this week, in which he mocked Kim as a "Rocket Man" on a "suicide mission," and said that if the U.S. is "forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea."
Past KCNA reports have used the Korean word against South Korean conservatives, but they rarely translate it as dotard.
Sometimes, it is translated into the neutral "old people" or omitted, depending on the context or the importance of the statement. KCNA last used the word in February to describe supporters of ousted South Korean President Park Geun-hye, whom it also called "neukdari" and a "prostitute." Before that, KCNA called Park's conservative predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, "the traitor like a dotard."
So why did KCNA use the word again?
It may have simply resorted to a Korean-English dictionary. Putting "neukdari" into a popular online Korean-English dictionary in South Korea returns two English equivalents: an "aged (old) person" and a "dotard."
There has been a widening linguistic divide between the rival Koreas, but "neukdari" has the same meaning in North Korea as in the South, according to a South Korean organization involved in a now-stalled project to produce a joint dictionary.
The Korean version of Friday's dispatch places "michigwangi," which means a mad or crazy person, before "neukdari," so a more accurate translation might have been a "crazy old man" or an "old lunatic."
In the past, KCNA has occasionally not published English versions of crude insults directed at U.S. leaders or officials in an apparent effort to differentiate its statements for domestic audiences and outsiders.
KCNA called President Barack Obama a "monkey" in 2014, but attributed the remarks to a factory worker and did not issue an English version. Later the same year, an unidentified North Korean defence commission spokesman called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a wolf with a "hideous lantern jaw," but again only in Korean.
After Trump threatened North Korea with "fire and fury" in August, Gen. Kim Rak Gyom, commander of the North's strategic rocket forces, was quoted in a KCNA Korean dispatch as saying Trump showed his "senility" again. But the KCNA English dispatch omitted that word.
The word meant "imbecile" when it was first used in the 14th century. https://t.co/jqrHao0R9i— Merriam-Webster (@MerriamWebster) September 21, 2017
The Korean original statement said "늙다리 미치광이," which means old beast lunatic -- which was translated into "dotard." https://t.co/2uQ0Xsxe2X— Jihye Lee 이지혜 (@TheJihyeLee) September 21, 2017