By Sam Kim
SEOUL, July 6 (Yonhap) -- North Korea heaped scorn on South Korean President Lee Myung-bak some 1,700 times until mid-June this year, a daily average of 9.9 times and an increase from last year, a South Korean official said in a state-run magazine on Monday.
The figures are a reflection of ties that have eroded since Lee took office in Seoul in February last year with a vow to link cross-border rapprochement with North Korean efforts to denuclearize.
North Korea, which remains technically at war with the South and conducted its second nuclear test in May, has lashed out at Lee, accusing him of aligning with U.S. hardliners to topple its regime.
"Some of the epithets North Korea used to refer to President Lee are so blatant that I can't even quote them here," Lee Chan-ho, chief analyst of cross-border ties at the Unification Ministry, said.
In his article written for the July edition of the National Defense Journal, Lee said North Korea's official media denigrated the South Korean president a total of 1,705 times until June 22 this year.
"What's worse is that North Korea is using indescribably abusive language to slam the prime minister, foreign, defense and unification ministers as well," he said.
North Korea criticized the South Korean president an average 7.9 times last year, Lee said. The total was 2,146 times.
Lee said Pyongyang has recently stepped up its rhetoric aimed at stirring anger among South Koreans as their president suffers some of his lowest support ratings ever amid social and economic woes.
"North Korea is toughening its efforts to instigate our people to join anti-government struggles," he said, adding the communist state released 33 official statements containing criticism of South Korean leadership from the beginning of May to June 22.
"The figure would be much higher if we combined the fire-breathing editorials in various North Korean media, including the Rodong Sinmun" published by the ruling Workers' Party, he said.
Lee said the rise in acerbity is partly attributable to the North's efforts to unite its people.
"North Korea is forcing its people to step up their loyalty by exaggerating the threat of its enemy, just as it manipulated danger from an enemy when it went ahead with its nuclear test," he said.
"It is also aimed at pressing our government to change its stance by fueling divisions in South Korean society," he said, calling it "an infringement on sovereignty and a typical, divisive move."
Even though North Korea called previous South Korean leaders names in the past, its denigration of the incumbent president in Seoul is the most frequent and "sometimes downright silly," Lee said.
"This kind of North Korean behavior only aggravates inter-Korean ties that have remained frozen since last year," he said.
South and North Korea fought the 1950-53 Korean War that ended in a truce rather than a peace treaty.
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