Vice President Mike Pence took a hard stance against the cooperation between North Korea and South Korea during the 2018 Winter Olympics. Two weeks ago, Pence attended the opening ceremony and caused a stir in the American press. He did not stand or applaud for the joint Korean team when they entered during the Parade of Nations. Indeed, he only applauded for the United States.
“We will not allow North Korean propaganda to hijack the message and imagery of the Olympic Games. We will not allow North Korea to hide behind the Olympic banner the reality that they enslave their people and threaten the wider region,” Pence said.
Some news outlets such as USA Today called Pence an embarrassment to the nation and disrespectful to the host country.
“As a visiting American, it was an embarrassment,” USA Today sports reporter David Meeks wrote. “If Pence had stood to recognize the Korean athletes at this global event, it would be preposterous to portray it as an endorsement of the regime in North Korea. It was not political until Pence made it political.”
Pence’s actions, however, were correct. He follows in a historic line of Americans standing strong on principle in the face of morally corrupt regimes at the Olympic Games.
In the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Adolf Hitler presided over the ceremonies three years before Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, but tensions surrounded Hitler and his international relations. During the Parade of Nations, each country’s athletes saluted Hitler in their own customary fashion. That is, all except the Americans.
In an article titled “100,000 Hail Hitler; U.S. Athletes Avoid Nazi Salute to Him,” reporter Frederick Birchall recorded the events of the opening ceremony for the New York Times.
“The greeting to the American team was mostly enthusiastic but not comparable with the welcome to some of the other teams, which gave the Olympic or Nazi salute,” he wrote.
American athletes took a stance against Hitler. Under the watchful eyes of the world, the athletes did not bow to the pressure. And the world noticed.
Pence, likewise, did not conform to the world’s pressures to applaud the joint Korean team. Again, the world watched. Through his actions, he directly informed the global population that the current administration will not show any sign of camaraderie with North Korea.
Forty four years after the ‘36 Olympic Games, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to support the socialist regime battling Islamic rebels. This sparked the Soviet-Afghan War, a conflict lasting nine years. The rebel groups, known as the Mujahideen, fought against the Soviet forces and the Afghan government, backed by the United States. At this point, Cold War tensions existed between the U.S. and Russia, ever since the end of World War II. America took the opportunity to support Russia’s enemies in the Middle East. Whether this was a wise decision or not is debatable, but President Jimmy Carter gave the Russians a deadline of Feb. 20, 1980 to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan. When the Soviet Union continued their invasion, Carter announced on March 21 that the United States would boycott the Olympics in Moscow.
West Germany and Canada both followed the U.S. in the boycott, as well as 63 other nations, including China. Again, America led the charge in solidarity against the oppressive communist regime. America is not without its faults, certainly, but at the Olympic Games, it has historically been a voice of opposition to deadly governments.
Pence has become the next icon of the American spirit at the Olympics. CNN and the Telegraph reported that Pence said he deliberately ignored Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“I didn’t believe it was proper for the United States of America to give any attention in that form to someone who is not merely the sister of a dictator but the leader of a propaganda unit,” he said.
The day after the opening ceremony, CNN published an article titled “Kim Jong Un’s sister is stealing the show at the Winter Olympics.” The reporters were honest about the despicable lack of human rights in North Korea and Kim Yo-Jong’s hand in the travesties, but the media’s response glamorized Kim Jong-Un’s dynasty. Pence’s silence and refusal to applaud the joint Korean team is the proper response when facing a tyrannical, destructive government.
Pence received criticism from the mainstream media, but the American people need to regard him for what he is: a historic icon standing face to face with a monstrous regime, who, like past Americans, refuses to buckle under the world’s pressure.
Nolan Ryan is a sophomore studying English.