South Korea Monday condemned North Korean rants against President Park Geun-hye and called on the North to stop immediately.
“We urge Pyongyang to end the vulgar slander immediately and reflect on its antics,” said Lim Byeong-cheol, spokesman for South Korea’s Unification Ministry.
Earlier, the North’s official Korean Central News Agency lashed out at Park over her comments on the reported execution of North Korea’s defense minister, calling the South Korean leader a reckless “viper.”
“She is making a flurry of reckless remarks to escalate confrontation,” the agency said.
Last week, Ms. Park called the reported execution part of a “reign of extreme terror.”
Recently, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service said Hyon Yong Chol, a member of the North’s National Defense Commission and the minister of Peoples Armed Forces was purged and believed to be executed for being disloyal and insubordinate to Kim Jong Un.
Chang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies, said Pyongyang’s rhetoric might be aimed at raising tensions to try to justify its 'military first' policy.
“Given that it’s facing unfavorable circumstances in general, [the regime] appears to be focusing on justifying its Songun policy and using it as a political agenda instead of trying to improve inter-Korean ties,” Chang said.
Hyon’s image appeared in the North’s official media after South Korean media reported his purge, sparking speculation over his fall-out. The communist country has not commented on Hyon's fate.
Kim Yong-hyun, a professor at South Korea’s Dongkuk University, said the North might be reluctant to announce Hyon’s purge out of concern for demoralizing its army.
While traveling in Seoul Monday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the reported execution.
“The world is hearing increasingly more and more stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and a fancy by the leader against people who were close to him and sometimes for the most flimsy of excuses,” said Kerry.
Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report.