You think you have it bad here? You have no idea.
That’s the tone struck by human rights activist Yeonmi Park, who defected from North Korea, in addressing the controversy created when U.S. Olympian Gwen Berry turned from the flag during the national anthem.
Park said Berry’s actions are “unthinkable.”
Finishing third – and earning a spot on the U.S. Olympic team – in the hammer throw at the Olympic trials in Eugene, Ore., last week, Berry covered her head with a T-shirt that read, “Activist Athlete.”
The two women who finished ahead of Berry faced the flag with their hands covering their hearts.
The contrast was jarring, and Park offered: “If she did the exact same thing at this very moment, if she was North Korean, not only herself will be executed, eight generations of her family can be sent to political prison camp and execution.”
It’s not just North Korea, Park said, it’s happening in many countries living under dictatorships.
“I was a slave,” Park said, referencing human rights abuses also occurring in China and North Korea. “I was sold in China in 2007 as a child at 13 years old. The people actually called it slavery under Chinese Communist Party in North Korea.”
It’s difficult to criticize Park’s stance, knowing her background.
“There is actual injustice (there),” she said, “and the fact that she’s complaining about this country — the most tolerant country — she doesn’t really understand history.”
Berry said her actions were misinterpreted.
“I never said that I hated the country,” Berry told the Black News Channel earlier this week, adding the anthem is “disrespectful and it does not speak for Black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.”
Park said Berry is “so privileged” and that she and others like her should “go to North Korea, China and see how humans are being oppressed, and they will truly understand how valuable the freedom that we have is.”