The war of words between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un took a weird turn on Friday when North Korean state media broadcast a message from Kim branding Trump “the mentally deranged U.S. dotard.” Excuse me?
The term, which sounds vaguely offensive for obvious reasons and is far from being used commonly – or even rarely – is actually a clunky transition of the Korean word, “neukdari.” That word is a rude way to refer to an elderly person who has lost some of their mental and physical capabilities as a result of their old age.
Kim’s latest salvo of insults comes in response to Trump’s UN speech this week that saw the president fiercely denounce North Korea’s aggressive behavior. He also taunted Kim as a “Rocket Man” on a “suicide mission,” threatening that the United States will “totally destroy North Korea” if it or its allies are attacked.
The Korean Central News Agency, the state’s primary media outlet, has used the word “neukdari” to refer to South Korean politicians in the past, but the word is rarely translated as “dotard.” Instead, translators opt for the phrase “old people” or strike it from the broadcast altogether.
Indeed, online Korean-English dictionaries typically translate “neukdari” as either “aged (old) person” or “dotard,” which means that the questionable insult could have simply been the result of someone using Google translate or a similar service. Also, the official dispatch sent out on Friday also prefaces the word with “michigwangi,” which means “a crazy person,” so the entire phrase was likely akin to “a crazy old man.”
In 2014, KCNA raised eyebrows in a dispatch that called former President Barack Obama a “monkey,” but the outlet attributed the quote to a factory worker and did not translate it into English. Another 2014 transmission saw a North Korean defense commission spokesman blast then-Secretary of State John Kerry as a wolf with a “hideous lantern jaw.”