BEIJING - North Korea on Saturday compared President Obama to a "monkey in a tropical forest" as it blamed the administration for disrupting its Internet access amid a hacking dispute related to the movie
The North Korean government has been fiercely critical of the film, a comedy involving a plot to assassinate its leader, Kim Jong Un, but has denied responsibility for a recent cyberattack on Sony Pictures.
Facing a threat of terrorist attacks from hackers, and the subsequent refusal of large cinema halls to screen the movie, Sony initially canceled its release earlier this month.
After Obama criticized the company for caving in to pressure from North Korea, Sony released the movie Christmas Day in selected independent cinemas. It played to packed houses and took in nearly $1 million in opening-day ticket sales.
In a statement Saturday, North Korea's ruling body, the National Defense Commission, said Obama was "the chief culprit" for the movie's release.
"Obama always goes reckless in words and deeds like a monkey in a tropical forest," an unnamed spokesman for the commission said in a statement carried by the official KCNA news agency.
It wasn't the first time North Korea has used racist language to refer to Obama or, indeed, used crude insults against other top U.S. and South Korean officials. In May, its official news agency called Obama a "crossbreed" and "a wicked black monkey," while referring to South Korean President Park Geun-hye as "an old prostitute."
Obama had threatened retaliation against North Korea over the cyberattack on Sony, but it was not clear whether last week's disruption of Internet access was carried out by the U.S. government or by independent hackers.
North Korea demanded evidence Saturday that it was behind the attack on Sony, while blaming the United States for its own Internet problems.
"The United States," it said, "with its large physical size and oblivious to the shame of playing hide and seek as children with runny noses would, has begun disrupting the Internet operations of the main media outlets of our republic."
The U.S. administration, it said, had "feigned ignorance" of the attack.
Earlier, it had warned that any U.S. punishment over the cyberattack on Sony would lead to retaliation "thousands of times greater."
The United States has also requested China's help in punishing its ally North Korea, but Beijing has appeared reluctant to get involved.
The movie has proved a surprise success in China, with tens of thousands of people downloading it, most illegally, within hours of its being made available online.
Many Chinese netizens left positive reviews online, even without seeing the movie, as a gesture of protest against censorship, while others appeared to enjoy the lampooning of the North Korean regime. The country's leader is often mockingly referred to by Chinese Web users as "Fatty Kim III."
That popular reception was something of an embarrassment for the nationalist Global Times newspaper, which had earlier accused the United States of "senseless cultural arrogance" over the movie.
On Friday, the state-owned newspaper was forced to admit that some Chinese netizens had "criticized North Korea for lacking a sense of humor."
Still, the newspaper insisted the movie's popularity would be short-lived, calling it "low quality." The movie, the paper said, represented the West's "distorted view of North Korea."