Human rights activist Yeonmi Park, who defected from North Korea, criticized the “unthinkable” actions of team hammer thrower Gwen Berry after turning her back on the American flag as the national anthem was playing.
While performing the anthem at an Olympic qualifier in Oregon, first place DeAnna Price and second place Brooke Anderson faced the flag with their hands over their hearts. Berry, however, moved to face the crowd and covered her head with a t-shirt that read “Activist Athlete”.
“If she did the exact same thing right now, if she was North Korean, not only will she be executed, [also] eight generations of his family can be sent to a political prison camp and executed ”, Park mentionned.
Berry doesn’t know how well she and other Americans have it over dictatorships around the world, Park said.
“I was a slave,” Park said, pointing to inhumane practices in China and North Korea. “I was sold to China in 2007 when I was a kid at 13. People called it slavery under [the] Chinese Communist Party in North Korea.
“There is a real injustice [there], and the fact that she complains about this country – the most tolerant country – she does not really understand the history, “she added.
Responding to criticism, Berry said she felt “prepared” by reading the hymn and said her actions were misinterpreted.
“I never said I hated the country,” she told the Black news channel Tuesday. “I never said I didn’t want to go to the Olympics – that’s why I competed and I finished third and made the team.”
Later in the interview, Berry appeared to defend his actions.
“If you know your story, you know the full song of the national anthem, the third paragraph is about the slaves in America, our blood being slaughtered… all over the ground,” she said. “It’s disrespectful and it doesn’t speak for black Americans. It’s obvious. There’s no question.”
Park, however, said the Olympian qualified athlete was “so privileged” and that she didn’t know what oppression really looked like under a dictatorship.
“In North Korea, people who are truly oppressed don’t even know they are oppressed,” she said. “The fact that she complains about oppression and systemic racism – she doesn’t understand that she is so privileged.”
“There are people dying to come to America right now,” Park said. “I just hope they go to North Korea, China and see how humans are oppressed, and really understand how precious the freedom we have is.”
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Original author: Laurent Richard