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North Korean defector Yeonmi Park says she failed to call for help while being robbed in Chicago last year as bystanders barred her because it would be “racist.”
What happened: Park, 27, recalled the incident in a new interview with podcaster Joe Rogan, which tackled her experiences as a child in North Korea and as a defector in the U.S. She said it occurred during lootings across the city last summer.
Park was out with her baby and a nanny when three Black women allegedly robbed her near Saks Fifth Avenue on Michigan Avenue. The suspects tried to flee but she managed to grab the woman who took her wallet.
Park held onto the woman and attempted to call the police. At this point, the woman allegedly started accusing her of racism and punching her in the chest. “You’re a racist! The color of my skin doesn’t make me a thief,” she recalled the woman as saying.
The situation became more difficult for Park as bystanders -- whom she identified as white people -- gathered around the scene and allegedly prevented her from phoning law enforcement. She said they also let the suspects go.
“These people on the streets, these bystanders, who were white people, were calling me racist,” Park alleged. “They were telling me that the color of their [the robbers'] skin doesn’t make them thieves.”
Park said she also saw one white mother point at her to illustrate racism in the U.S. to her teenage children. “Look at that racist, that’s the problem we have,” she recalled the mother as saying.
The aftermath: Park said the incident marked the beginning of her “speaking out” and becoming "the enemy of the woke.” When the group of some 20 bystanders blocked her from calling the police, she thought to herself, “This country lost it.”
The 27-year-old stressed that if the same thing had occurred in North Korea, bystanders would have naturally helped the victim. “They’re not going to just, out of nowhere, scream ‘You’re a racist!’” she said.
Park said police were able to find a suspect after reviewing surveillance footage and tracking her credit cards. A report from CWB Chicago shows that Lecretia Harris, 29, was arrested in connection with the incident and initially charged with felony robbery.
Harris reportedly pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful restraint in exchange for a two-year sentence. Prosecutors dropped the robbery charge as part of the plea agreement.
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