North Korea’s description of South Korea’s president as an “old, insane bitch” destined for violent death may take the rivals’ hateful propaganda battle to a new level of hostility.
The neighbours have a long, bloody history of despising each other and the north called President Park Geun-hye’s predecessors traitors and even rat-like.
But the invectives it throws at the south’s first female president tend to be uglier, often casting her relationship with her American allies in crude sexual terms.
Carved in two by the Soviets and Americans at the end of the Second World War, the halves of the Korean peninsula fought a vicious war in the early 1950s, and have spent much of the years since then promising, and sometimes trying very hard to engineer, each other’s destruction.
North Korea, even as it builds a nuclear arsenal, has in recent decades been outgunned diplomatically, economically and militarily by the richer south. It has therefore relied more on words as a weapon. It has been especially likely to do so under conservative South Korean leaders such as Park and her immediate predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. Before Lee took office in 2008, nearly a decade of liberal leaders pushed for co-operation with Pyongyang and sent huge shipments of aid northwards.
The north’s attacks may be meant to “reduce hopes for unification, which the North Korean elite really does not want, because there is no way they would keep their privileges on the other side”, said Robert Kelly, a political scientist at Pusan National University in the south.
North Korea’s overwhelmingly male-dominated culture may have something to do with it as well. Mr Kelly says Pyongyang may not understand that sexist language disgusts many.
Brian Myers, an expert on North Korean propaganda at South Korea’s Dongseo University, said that young North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may either not remember or not care that his country once carefully tailored its propaganda to influence millions of potential leftist sympathisers in the south.
Mr Myers said that could be bad news for the near future. If it becomes impossible for a South Korean party devoted to accommodation to come to power in Seoul, he says,: “I’m afraid we could see the north shift more and more toward outright bullying and intimidation.”