Fred Warmbier, attending the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as a guest of U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, said during excerpts of an interview posted Saturday that he doubts the symbolic significance of North Korean involvement in the games.
“We have to put this in context, in the spirit of the Olympics, and why we’re here,” Warmbier said in a preview clip of an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt. “And so when you put it that way they’re not really participating in the Olympics. Their athletes are not exchanging ideas with other athletes in the Olympic Village or really participating, so that’s a political statement.”
Warmbier and Pence sat inside a VIP box with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister Kim Yo Jong for Friday’s opening ceremony at the Pyeongchang Stadium.
Warmbier said it wasn’t tough to watch Kim Yo Jong savoring the event from just a few feet away. “She’s in the Kim family,” he said.
Earlier Friday, Warmbier and Pence met with a group of North Korean defectors, and Pence warned about a possible North Korean “charm offensive” during the games.
But Warmbier insisted his attendance in South Korea was “not political.” North Korea’s treatment of his son, he said, “is their standard ― that’s the way they do business.”
Much has been made of Olympics rapprochement between North Korea and South Korea, which are still split by war. Athletes from both nations entered Pyeongchang Stadium as a unified team sharing a flag for Friday’s opening ceremony. The Korean women’s hockey team is also the first in Olympic history to feature players from both countries.
“NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt” will air the full interview with Fred Warmbier Saturday night.