Growing up, I was fascinated with the idea of North Korea. I watched documentary after documentary, trying to wrap my mind around a place so unlike my own home — a place without freedom, education, or opportunity.
Watching one of these documentaries, I listened to the story of a girl who had escaped the totalitarian regime, who later wrote a book about it called “In Order to Live.” Yeonmi Park described the horrors she faced growing up: starvation, indoctrination, and dehumanization. She said that in North Korea, citizens are taught to hate enemies of the state, especially Americans.
“Our schools and textbooks were full of images of grotesque American GIs with blue eyes and huge noses executing civilians. Sometimes at recess we lined up to beat or stab dummies dressed like American soldiers,” Park recalled.
And shockingly enough, it was this brutality and propaganda the American media celebrated this week.
A few weeks before the Winter Olympics were set to take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Kim Jong-Un announced that his sister, Kim Yo-Jong, would travel to South Korea to represent his regime at the games. It was a historic moment: This was the first time a member of North Korea’s ruling family had stepped foot in South Korea since the start of the Korean War.
But instead of treating her with the precaution and seriousness that North Korea’s repressive, inhumane society demands, the media showered Kim Yo-Jong with attention and praise, taking more than a few shots at the Trump administration along the way.
A CNN headline blared: “Kim Jong-Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.” This story began by describing Kim Yo-Jong’s diplomatic performance as gold medal-worthy: “With a smile, a handshake and a warm message in South Korea’s presidential guest book, Kim Yo-Jong has struck a chord with the public just one day into the PyeongChang Games.”
Judging from this, acting politely with a smile on one’s face is a mind-blowing, unprecedented diplomatic tactic. Who would’ve guessed? But considering Kim Jong-Un’s typical diplomatic relations consist of nuclear threats and frequent missile launches, maybe CNN is right.
The media briefly abandoned its fixation with the way Kim Yo-Jong “effortlessly” shook hands to attack Mike Pence (but only after making sure we knew North Korea’s diplomatic head of state was really rocking that wine-colored jacket and black pants). There was no shortage of criticism for Pence’s decision not to acknowledge Kim Yo-Jong or stand when the “unified” Korean team walked in the opening parade.
A New York Times reporter wrote: “Kim Jong-Un’s sister turns on the charm, taking Pence’s spotlight.” Her “sphinx-like smile” and “no-nonsense hairstyle and dress, her low-key makeup, and the sprinkle of freckles on her cheeks” apparently symbolized a desire for peace and reconciliation. Pence, on the other hand, has wrinkles instead of freckles and a sense of morality instead of an insane desire for domination.
The media was so appalled with Pence’s “horrific,” “atrocious,” “disrespectful” — you name it — behavior that they seemed to have forgotten the 18 million North Koreans dying of starvation, a well-known fact thanks to a 2017 United Nations report. They overlooked the stories of survivors like Park, who had been so indoctrinated that she believed her life was “worth less than an animal’s.”
The New York Times and CNN’s “political princess” is a living manifestation of that reality. Kim Jong-Un didn’t send her to South Korea to make peace or to express a desire for reconciliation. I suspect he knew exactly what he was doing — hiding the ugly truth about the world’s most brutal regime behind a put-together, pretty figure who could make Americans forget, with a smile and handshake, that North Korea will never end its oppression.
Pence was right to ignore Kim Yo-Jong. She was nothing more than a North Korean prop, and America owes her nothing. Her totalitarian regime does not deserve recognition. A state bent on destroying America should not receive attention.
David Meeks wrote in USA Today that Pence “embarrassed America.” He said: “America should always strive to set an example for others. Sometimes that means rising above pettiness, taking the high road of proper respect over mean-spirited grandstanding.”
Yes, Meeks, we should set an example for others: We should encourage other nations not to cater to a regime dedicated to destroying freedom and anyone who dares to pursue it. And that’s exactly what Pence did.
Just thinking out loud here, but aren’t North Korea’s grotesque crimes against humanity more important than how many freckles Kim Yo-Jong has on her left cheek? Reading their coverage, I’m assuming CNN, the Times, and a host of others are leaning toward the latter.
And the saddest part is that these outlets allowed themselves to be used by Kim Jong-Un, promoting his dictatorship by praising its ceremonial head. They were props and tools used by the North Korean regime, dancing right alongside Kim Yo-Jong as Kim Jong-Un expertly pulled the strings. So, a word of advice for those tempted to do the same: Please — for the love of all that’s good — shut up.
Kaylee McGhee is a junior studying politics.