The North Korean regime and President Donald Trump may have found something they agree on: their dislike of the media.
Pyongyang’s state-controlled news agency KCNA issued a new, scathing condemnation of the South Korean press Friday, just days after North Korea’s Central Court sentenced two South Korean journalists and two media executives to death for reviewing a book that outlines a sprawling underground capitalist economy in the secretive Communist state.
The latest attack comes from a spokesman for the Central Committee of the Journalists Union of Korea, one of several workers’ unions organized under the Workers’ Party of Korea. The statement targets several South Korean publications, including the news agency Yonhap, for “speaking ill” of the country’s belligerence against the U.S. and neighboring countries.
The spokesman issued threats against the reporters working for those media organizations, warning them of “retaliatory blows.”
“We will track down the puppet conservative reptile writers fostering discord within the nation under the auspices and at the instigation of the anti-reunification forces at home and abroad, and throw overboard all of them,” the statement read.
“Our grime and merciless pen will sight the bases which commit hideous crimes against the DPRK by spreading misinformation about it, and beat them to pieces,” it added, referring to North Korea’s official name Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK). “The puppet conservative media escalating confrontation with the DPRK while [daring to] challenge the annihilating spirit of the army and people of the DPRK will never be able to evade the shower of retaliatory blows.”
Similarly to North Korea slamming adverse media reports as a threat, President Trump referred to a number of publications as the “enemy of the American People.”
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017
More recently, Trump took an opportunity to attack the media at a rally in Phoenix, Arizona, referring to journalists as “sick people” and saying they are the “source of the division in our country.”
“You have some very good reporters. You have some very fair journalists. But for the most part, honestly, these are really, really dishonest people, and they’re bad people. And I really think they don’t like our country. I really believe that. And I don’t believe they’re going to change, and that’s why I do this,” Trump said.
During the campaign, Trump singled out and named reporters who he did not think were covering him favorably enough, including Politico’s reporter Ben Schreckinger.
Trump’s son Eric recently supported his father’s crusade, saying in an interview on Wedensday that the negative coverage the president receives could hurt a person’s mental health.
While American journalism traditionally sees its role as an independent watchdog over those in position of power and authority, with its freedoms and rights enshrined in the First Amendment, Pyongyang’s authoritarian government sees the media as a lapdog of the country’s leadership.
Publications are tightly controlled and serve as a mean of propaganda unquestionably supporting the ideology of the ruling Workers Party and the country’s leader Kim Jong Un. “North Korea remained one of the most repressive media environments in the world” the U.S.-based NGO Freedom House wrote in 2016. “Access to foreign and independent media is tightly restricted.”
In South Korea, a national security law forbids the press from expressing “favorable” views to North Korea, an offense that is punishable by imprisonment, as noted by the France-based NGO Reporters Without Borders.