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View more articles by Hamish Macdonald
Hamish Macdonald is an NK News contributor and has previously worked at The Korea Herald and for the Australia Centre for Independent Journalism in Sydney.
North Korean state media on Tuesday erupted with an inflammatory, anti-gay editorial targeting chairperson of the UN Commission of Inquiry (COI) into Human Rights in North Korea, Michael Kirby.
The Korea Central News Agency (KCNA) said it was “ridiculous” that Kirby, a “disgusting old lecher with a 40-odd-year-long career of homosexuality,” should be responsible for investigating human rights.
“It is ridiculous for such gay to sponsor dealing with others’ human rights issue,” the KCNA said, suggesting Kirby had fabricated a recent UN report on human rights abuses in North Korea.
The KCNA also attempted to further discredit Kirby by citing his wish to marry his long term partner of over 40 years, Johan van Vloten. “He is now over seventy, but he is still anxious to get married to his homosexual partner,” the KCNA said.
Kirby served as the first openly gay judge of the High Court of Australia and was appointed as chair of the UN COI in 2013, which in March 2014 published a damning, 372 page report on human rights abuses in North Korea.
Last Thursday Kirby advised the UN Security Council to refer North Korea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for possible prosecution of North Korean officials, including Kim Jong Un.
But the KCNA editorial – which appears to be a response to Kirby’s Security Council presentation – alleged that the COI report had been written by “swindlers” and that the commissioners came to their conclusions after being paid by the U.S.
Tuesday’s editorial constitutes the first time that the KCNA has ever directly referred to homosexuality without directly quoting another source. It also marks the first instance of KCNA attempting to discredit someone because of their sexuality.
North Korean attitudes towards homosexuality were explored in depth in November 2013 by NK News journalist Oliver Hotham, who on Tuesday said he was not surprised that the KCNA attempted to use Kirby’s sexuality to discredit him: “North Korea has a history of being disapproving of homosexuality – something the USSR used to do as well.”
Hotham added that North Korea tends to treat homosexuality as a foreign phenomenon, usually reporting it as an example of U.S. depravity and something irrelevant to local society.
“Part of their attitude towards homosexuality is also due to a cultural attitude where marriage and having children is something that is seen as a duty towards the state as well. A man who hasn’t done that is seen as having forsaken the need of his community for his own selfish needs,” Hotham added.
North Korean media outlets have a track record of making personal attacks against figures and organizations critical of Pyongyang’s leadership.
State media made similarly personal attacks about South Korean President Park Geun-hye in recent weeks, with an interview series that called her a “bitch” published in the Rodong Sinmun critical of her for never getting married or having children.
Picture: Flickr U.S. Mission Geneva/ Eric Bridiers