During Friday night’s Opening Ceremony, PyeongChang Stadium erupted with applause when the delegations from North and South Korea marched in unison under one flag.
The host nation always marches last, so the show of unity from the two Koreas capped off the procession of nearly 3,000 athletes from 92 countries at the new $109 million Olympic stadium. The PyeongChang Games mark the first time North and South Korea will compete as one at the Olympics, but Vice President Mike Pence apparently did not deem the moment worthy of applause.
According to the Associated Press, a White House official said Pence, who once left an NFL game in response to players not standing for the national anthem, stood and applauded only for the United States.
From the AP:
Pence was seated between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The dictator’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, and the country’s 90-year-old nominal head of state, Kim Yong Nam, were seated a row behind.
The White House official says Pence stood only for the U.S. team, despite other people in the box standing and applauding when athletes from the two Koreas walked in together.
Pence, the leader of the U.S. delegation, was among 12 leaders invited to an in-stadium reception by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The leaders sat in a box during the Opening Ceremony, but Pence left early, opting not to shake hands with leaders from North Korea, though he did sit near the sister of Kim Jong Un.
Pence has been outspoken about North Korea’s history of human rights issues and met with defectors from the country on Friday.
Karen & I were honored to meet w/ victims of the oppressive North Korean regime. We heard the harrowing stories of defectors who risked life & limb for freedom, & from Fred Warmbier, father of the late Otto Warmbier. We admire their resilience. #VPinASIA pic.twitter.com/90kUlGSXG7
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 9, 2018
He also continued to speak out about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program after a military parade was held Thursday.
“Make no mistake about it, what we witnessed in Pyongyang, and we witnessed again yesterday, on the eve of the Olympics — what President Moon said last night, he hopes will be an Olympics of peace — was once again an effort on the part of the regime in Pyongyang to display their ballistic missiles,” Pence told reporters, “To display a military that continues to make menacing threats across the region and across the wider world.”