Ri’s noodle barb didn’t overshadow welcome: Blue HouseA senior North Korean official’s insulting remark to South Korean business chiefs during a luncheon in September did “not overshadow” the overwhelming welcome South Korean President Moon Jae-in received from North Koreans during his visit to Pyongyang, the Blue House said Monday.
Kim Eui-kyeom, spokesman for the Blue House, also noted that the remark by Ri Son-gwon, chairman of the North’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country, which handles inter-Korean relations, had not fully been substantiated, an apparent effort to quell any controversy.
Ri, who hails from the military, is known for his hard-line stance when dealing with South Korean officials.
“When the overall context of remarks are absent, their meaning could be interpreted in a dramatically different way,” Kim said. “Sometimes [interpretation without the context] could turn compliment into criticism and criticism into compliment. As of now, we do not have clear facts about Ri’s alleged remark.
“Even if [Ri’s] manners and culture are a bit different from ours, I don’t think it overshadowed the overwhelming welcome President Moon received during his visit to Pyongyang,” continued Kim, referring to the president’s three-day trip to the North Korean capital in September for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
It was revealed during a parliamentary audit in late October that Ri had scolded South Korean business tycoons who accompanied Moon as part of his delegation to Pyongyang in September. Over a lunch with the tycoons, including executives of Samsung, SK and LG, Ri asked, “Do the cold noodles go down your throat?”
In Korean, the expression is a way of scolding someone for being too comfortable. The South Korean delegation at the time was eating a bowl of Pyongyang-style naengmyeon (cold noodles) at the famed Okryu Restaurant.
Ri is thought to have made the remark to register his discontent over the slow pace of inter-Korean business cooperation by business groups since the April 27 inter-Korean agreement due to economic sanctions on the North.
Ri was also revealed to have poked fun at Democratic Party (DP) Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon’s physique during an inter-Korean event in Pyongyang last month, according to participants in the event.
“Those with a pot belly should not be entrusted with a budget,” Ri was quoted by participants as saying after an official of the ruling Democratic Party introduced Kim as the DP official managing the government’s budget at a dinner in Pyongyang on Oct. 5.
BY KANG JIN-KYU [firstname.lastname@example.org]
More in Politics
Travel ban on former vice minister may be CIO's first case
Yoon's popularity plummets as clash with gov't ends
Ruling party's race for Seoul mayor heats up
Police apologize for misleading public on alleged assault case