- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 6, 2019

President Trump faced criticism Saturday from a North Korean defector after recently becoming the first sitting U.S. leader to visit, albeit briefly, the notorious hermit nation.

Yeonmi Park, a human rights activist who fled North Korea in 2007, took aim at Mr. Trump in an op-ed written in response to his unprecedented trip abroad last week.

“Congratulations, Mr. Trump — you’ve gone where other U.S. presidents would not,” she wrote for The Hill. “In paying a friendly visit to the giant gulag that is the North Korea, you’ve taken another step toward legitimizing the Kim regime. In doing so, my chances of returning alive and free to that land have declined again.”

“In the last eighty years, more than six million people have died because of the Kim regime’s brutal dictatorship,” she continued. “Potentially three million perished in the famine of the 1990s alone. Would you have congratulated yourself for being the first president to visit Auschwitz, not as a liberator but as a ‘friend’ of Hitler?”

The White House did not immediately return a request for comment.

Mr. Trump made history days earlier when he became the first sitting U.S. president to cross the demilitarized zone into North Korea during an impromptu meeting with the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton previously traveled north of the DMZ after their administrations ended, but Mr. Trump is the first to do so while in office.

“Stood on the soil of North Korea, an important statement for all, and a great honor,” Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter after the visit.

Ms. Park, 25, fled North Korea as a teenager during the regime of Mr. Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il. She moved to New York City in 2014 and published an autobiography the following year about her escape, “In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom.”

“The Kim regime is not the legitimate government of the North Korean people, any more than a German built concentration camp was the legitimate government of the Polish region of Auschwitz,” she wrote for The Hill.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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