The Tragic Fate of Otto Warmbier

By Ray Starmann

University of Virginia student, Otto Warmbier, is a prisoner somewhere in the Orwellian hell hole known as North Korea. Otto Warmbier may be suffering a fate tantamount to an inmate of Dachau. At this very moment, Otto Warmbier may be starving, performing slave labor, being beaten or in fact, he may very well be dead.

The tragic fate of Otto Warmbier, is the tragic fate of the millions of North Koreans living in the Gulag Archipelago of Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian nightmare world.

Warmbier, 23, was convicted of conducting “hostile acts against the DPRK”.

Mr. Warmbier was not an intelligence officer working for the CIA and his ‘hostile act’ was not sabotage or espionage.

The so-called hostile act against North Korea committed by college student Warmbier, (who was travelling with a tour group called Young Pioneer Tours), was purloining a propaganda poster off the wall of the Yanggakdo Hotel in Pyongyang with the inscription, “Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il’s patriotism!”

Stealing or harming a poster or other items with the name or image of one of North Korea’s past or present lunatic asylum leaders is considered a serious crime against the state.

On January 2, Warmbier was arrested while in the process of departing North Korea from the Pyongyang airport. The other guests in his tour group all left the country without incident. On February 29, 2016, he “confessed” to stealing a piece of North Korean propaganda to take back to the United States as a “trophy” for someone from his home-town church who offered to pay him for it with the gift of a car worth $10,000.

On March 16, 2016, Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for committing what Warmbier thought was a harmless college prank that could provide him with a new car.

Warmbier was allowed to speak to the kangaroo court that sentenced him. He stated, obviously under emotional and perhaps physical duress:

“I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country, I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life.”

As tensions with North Korea rise and the war drums beat, the State Department continues to make efforts to one, find out Warmbier’s current location in North Korea, two, meet with him and three, to secure his release with the assistance of the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

The State Department released the following statement today:

The welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad is one of the highest priorities of the State Department. The Embassy of Sweden continues to request information on the exact location of Mr. Warmbier, and to request access for consular visits with him. However, representatives from the Swedish Embassy have not been granted consular access to Mr. Warmbier since the visit on March 2, 2016. The Department believes Mr. Warmbier’s sentence of 15 years hard labor is unduly harsh for the actions Mr. Warmbier allegedly took. Despite official claims that U.S. citizens arrested in the DPRK are not used for political purposes, it is increasingly clear from its very public treatment of these cases that the DPRK does just that. Mr. Warmbier has gone through the criminal process and has been detained for more than a year. We continue to urge the DPRK to pardon him and grant him special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds.

The question remains: where is Otto Warmbier? Most distressingly, it is likely Warmbier is being incarcerated in one of North Korea’s penal labor camps for political prisoners known as the Kwalliso.

The internment camps are located in central and northeastern North Korea. They comprise many prison labor colonies in secluded mountain valleys, completely isolated from the outside world. The total number of prisoners is estimated to be 150,000 to 200,000. Yodok camp and Bukchang camp are separated into two sections: One section for political prisoners in lifelong detention, another part similar to re-education camps with prisoners sentenced to long-term imprisonment with the vague hope of eventual release.

The prisoners are forced to perform hard and dangerous slave work with primitive means in mining and agriculture. The food rations are very small, so that the prisoners are constantly on the brink of starvation. In combination with the hard work this leads to huge numbers of prisoners dying. An estimated 40% of prisoners die from malnutrition.

Moreover, many prisoners are crippled from work accidents, frostbite or torture. There is a rigid punishment in the camp. Prisoners who work too slowly or do not obey an order are beaten or tortured. In cases of stealing food or attempting to escape, the prisoners are publicly executed.

As inprisonment in North Korea’s gulag archipelago is life threatening, it is imperative that the State Department continues to lobby for Warmbier’s release, even as tensions continue to rise on the Korean Peninsula.

If you are a religious person, you might want to say a prayer for Otto Warmbier, who at this very moment may be suffering a fate worse than most can imagine.

22 comments on “The Tragic Fate of Otto Warmbier
  1. Years ago we kept losing people going to Lebanon; good grief stop doing that. God help this young man and his family, they do need our prayers. But we must warn our people NOT to go to North Korea, Iran and such.

  2. I think about this poor child almost everyday! It is unbelievable that he is still there for taking the poster off the wall! (I have read that he left it on the floor) I wish I could do something to bring him home! I am so happy to see a new article about him, I think we need to keep him in the news. Keep writing about him!!

  3. What is tragic about this? The Young Pioneers are a Communist group posing as a group of tourists. Every photo I have seen of them is with Communists. They are named after a Communist Youth organization.

    I have no sympathy. This is what Communist (Socialist) nations led by Dictators do to their own people and have down for a century.

    This is what the group supports Enjoy your stay at Hotel Socialism.

    • Young Pioneer Tours isn’t a “communist group”. It’s a genuine travel agency which specializes in trips to places most people would be afraid to go. Most of their clientele are adventurous single young people in their 20s or 30s.

      • They are a travel group, but you have got to be kidding me. Travel at your own risk is more like it. No one leave N. Korea unless you are allowed to leave. Yep this young man did something he should not have done, but his sentence does not fit the crime.

    • You might wanna look up what communism and socialism are because it seems like you don’t know that they are two different things.

      Or at least watch a YouTube video if you have to see visually how they are both different.

    • Nothing you just said was proper, true or patriotic, in case that is what you were assuming you were doing? You mistake patriotism for blind ignorance and push button term dropping. What it was, however, was a sad appeal for attention from a poorly educated and utterly uninformed person with nothing better to do than troll the lives of actual Americans in peril, a peril I am sure you would neither subject yourself to or be strong enough to survive. I pray for this young man’s family, for our country to make the right choices in securing his freedom and for people like you to stay hidden in the holes they’ve created for themselves. No need to respond, no one cares, buddy. Good luck Dick Johnson.

    • So you are using the imprisonment, torture and involuntary servitude of an American college student in his early 20’s as an example of your atheism or whatever it is you follow? Look, be what you want to be, pray to brass fork in a sombrero for all anyone cares, but why target someone you will never meet or know or understand as a tool of your own propaganda? I know if you respond it’ll be some sarcastic or flippant, obnoxious response so need to bother. Opinions have been shared, hopefully you rid yourself of that hate brother. Good luck Wang.

  4. You have to be a complete moron to voluntarily travel to N. Korea, especially if you are American. In addition, why would you try to steal something while you are there? This guy is a dope and it’s really hard to have any sympathy for him.

      • Even the communist SOB’s in East Germany would have probably just fined Warmbier and thrown him back over the border, or a day in jail, yelled at by some judge and then fined. Of course if it was in the early 1960’s he could have ended up like Frederick Pryor, but North Korea is just insane.

    • You have to realize that he probably didn’t even do anything. The only “video evidence” they have is conveniently dark and extremely blurry – and the figure has a hood on. This is classic North Korea trying to create a political bargaining chip. If you pay attention to any of the statements Otto has been forced to make they all talk about the US manipulating it’s citizens into committing crimes against North Korea. It’s utterly ridiculous and heartbreaking that a (most likely innocent) US citizen and young adult is being subject to this. I agree, I don’t think ANYONE in their right mind should go there under any circumstance, but it’s a little harsh to call him a dope and assume he actually did this.

  5. I was young once and I have seen over 30 countries …. but I was never stupid enough that I would have traveled to North Korea. It is like taking a holiday to Afghanistan. The fat pig that runs that country is insane. Any idiot that goes there for any reason … even humanitarian is a moron.

    • While in S. Korea for a military exercise, I travelled to the DMZ with a sponsored military tour. It was pretty sobering looking at the N. Korean’s soldiers, all they had was mimicking us and taking pictures of themselves while we were looking at them across the divide. Heard stories from other military stationed there of seeing the N. Korean soldiers fishing and growing their own food. They did not get fed well. It was an eerie place. I can’t imagine anyone volunteering to go to N. Korea on a frickin tour.

  6. Well, if you do something illegal abroad you should also know that it can get you into trouble. Especially in a place like North Korea. Yea, I also think that the punishment is too harsh for such a puny offense, but still…

  7. What a funny totally ignorant and rather rude article.
    The author conveniently forgets that theUS has nowadays the largest “gulag” in the world with 1000s of inmates in compete isolation for decades.
    US jails are brutal places where tortures, beatings and even killings routinely take place.
    As usual, the American author accuses North – Korea of the crimes committed routinely buy the US.
    Secret and kangaroo courts have been used and are used all the times there as well.
    Cultural imperialism sucks!

    • LOL. Say hi to Joe Stalin, Mao, Uncle Ho, Che and your dear leader with the bad haircut. Tell Kim to lose some weight too. He’s gotta lay off the Twinkies.

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