Fred Wambier, the father of Otto Wambier, the University of Virginia student, who was arrested and tortured by North Korea before being returned home a few days before he died, must be a very brave man.
Mr. Wambier is scheduled to attend the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics tomorrow in Pyeongchang, South Korea as guest of Vice President Mike Pence.
North Korea is participating in the Olympics, including sending the dictator's sister, who is regarded as second to her brother in the shadowy North Korean regime. CNN reports:
It is the first time that a member of Kim's ruling dynasty has visited the South since the Korean war of 1950 to 1953. Such a high-level meeting would have been unimaginable even a few months ago, but [South Korean president] Moon sees the Winter Olympics as a chance to make diplomatic inroads with the North.
Much has been made of the North Korean figure skaters who will, as a news report put it, "carry North Korea's hopes for Olympic glory." Well, that sounds normal, doesn't it?
If you have not yet read Blaine Harden's Escape from Camp 14: One Man's Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, I urge you to do so. It is one of the most disturbing and memorable books you will ever read. It reveals what one review described as "the ghastliest corner of the world's cruelest dictatorship." Children are killed for a few grains of food and encouraged to betray their parents (the protagonist watches his mother executed, but it is not that big of a deal until he gets to the West and learns about more normal human relationships). If the North Korean regime falls, the world will see malnutrition on an unimaginable scale.
Mr. Wambier and his wife Cindy were also at President Trump's State of the Union address, and China expert Gordon Chang wrote that in that speech President Trump went "where Kim Jung Un fears most: human rights." Chang referred in the article in the Daily Beast to the "depravity" of the North Korean regime. The president also memorably introduced Ji Seong-ho, who was tortured by the government before escaping, at the State of the Union address. As Chang points out, Kim might want us to know about his nukes, but his human rights policy–well, he prefers to keep that out of the international spotlight.
Mr. Wambier's presence will be a reminder that there is nothing normal about a depraved regime. Good for Vice President Pence for having invited him and good for Mr. Wambier for undertaking what must be a terrible journey for a bereaved father. Amid the festivities, it will be a powerful witness.