North Korea Sentences American Student to 15 Years Hard Labor
News| | By Lauren Boudreau
What started out as a college prank turned into a nightmare for 21-year-old American student Otto Warmbier.
Warmbier, a student from the University of Virginia, was arrested in North Korea’s capital city Pyongyang after attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel in January during a tourist visit. Warmbier made a tearful apology to the North Korean court, but it fell on deaf ears as they charged him with “subversion,” according to the Wall Street Journal, which essentially means they accused him of trying to bring down the regime.
Warmbier confessed that he was trying to take the poster for a friend who wanted it as a “trophy.” In exchange, Warmbier would get a used car worth about $10,000.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, “North Korea’s sentencing of Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor for a college-style prank is outrageous and shocking.”
However, this isn’t the first time Americans have been given tough sentences for harmless crimes in North Korea.
In 2013, U.S. citizen Kenneth Bae was sentenced to 15 years hard labor for unspecified “hostile crimes,” but was believed to be detained for taking pictures of North Korean homeless children. Jeffrey Fowle spent six months detained in North Korea after leaving a Bible in a bathroom stall. Merrill Newman was detained after telling his tour guide he fought in the Korean war.
Warmbier is calling his prank “the worst mistake of his life.”