Menacing language from North Korea is nothing new. Neither is its office technology.
A South Korean news agency reported Friday that the North has threatened a “merciless” attack without notice in response to anti-North rallies this week — and that it sent the warning by fax.
It’s the latest provocation from North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jong Un, who, at 30 years old, was born not long before the fax entered its golden age of curling paper, smudgy printing and shrieking modems.
The threat was sent by the North Korean military, according to the Yonhap news agency. It arrived, apparently without a paper jam, at the South Korean National Security Council.
NBC News was unable to independently verify the report.
The military apparently condemned rallies by several conservative groups and North Korean defectors that took place in the South on Tuesday, saying they insulted North Korea’s “highest dignity,” referring to Kim.
The rallies were held on the second anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Il, the younger Kim’s father, who was known as the Dear Leader and ruled the North from 1994 until his death in 2011. At the demonstrations, to protest authoritarian rule and North Korean human rights abuses, some people burned photos of the younger Kim.
South Korea responded to the Northern threat by faxing back. It vowed to “sternly react” to any provocations, ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told Yonhap.
Dennis Rodman, the flamboyant former NBA star — whose own best years coincided with those of the fax machine — is in North Korea this week holding tryouts for a basketball team that is supposed to play NBA veterans on Kim’s birthday next month.
He told The Associated Press that plans are coming along, but he said he hasn’t convinced all of the players he wants for the American team that it will be safe to travel to the North.
“I’m just telling them, you know, don’t be afraid, man, it’s all love, it’s all love here,” Rodman told the AP after tryouts at the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium.
“I understand what’s going on with the political stuff, and I say, I don’t go into that venture, I’m just doing one thing for these kids here, and for this country, and for my country, and for the world pretty much,” he added.
PhotoBlog: ‘Don’t be afraid’: Dennis Rodman holds tryouts in North Korea
Rodman and Kim Jong Un, famous for bad behavior of two completely different kinds, have struck an improbable friendship. Rodman visited the North earlier this year with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO special.
Rodman remains the highest-profile American to meet with the young leader, whom he has described as an “awesome guy.”
In a much more serious development, the Pentagon warned on Thursday that the execution last week of Kim’s own uncle is an example of the worrisome unpredictability of the North Korean regime.
The North Korean state news agency said the uncle, Jang Song Thaek, was executed for trying to seize power and driving the economy “into an uncontrollable catastrophe.”
Politics, like just about everything else in the secretive communist state, are impenetrable, analysts have speculated that the execution could have been the result of a falling out with Kim or some other personal reason.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that uncertainty about North Korea’s motives is “concerning to everyone.”
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that such moves by dictators are “often a precursor to provocation to distract attention from they’re doing inside of that country.”
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published December 20 2013, 3:17 AM