The North Korean government is claiming a U.S. student imprisoned in the hermit kingdom admitted to “severe crimes,” including stealing a propaganda sign.
“I committed the crime of taking out a political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel,” Otto Warmbier, a student at University of Virginia, told the media in a public appearance choreographed by the North Korean communist government. “I have made the worst mistake of my life, but please act to save me.”
Warmbier also said a “deaconness” at an Ohio church “offered him a used car worth $10,000 if he could present a U.S. church with the slogan as a ‘trophy’ from North Korea.” This same person promised Warmbier $200,000 for his mother if the country arrested him and he did not return, he allegedly claimed.
A senior pastor at Friendship United Methodist Church in Wyoming, OH, Warmbier’s hometown, said that “he did not know the person identified by Warmbier” as a deaconess. He also said the student is “not a member of the congregation.”
Warmbier told the media his crime “is very severe and pre-planned,” but the authorities have impressed him with their “humanitarian treatment of severe criminals.”
Authorities said Warmbier asked for the press conference.
The video brought Warmbier’s parents relief since they have not seen their son in almost two months.
“We had not heard from him during these many weeks, so you can imagine how deeply worried we were and what a traumatic experience this has been for us,” stated Fred and Cindy Warmbier. “He seems to be in good health, although we won’t know for sure about his condition until we have a chance to speak with him.”
Their statement added:
I hope the fact that he has conveyed his sincere apology for anything that he may have done wrong will now make it possible for the DPRK (North Korea) authorities to allow him to return home. I urge the DPRK government to consider his youth and make an important humanitarian gesture by allowing him to return to his loved ones.
The Communist regime arrested Warmbier on January 2 right before his flight back to China. Korean Central News Agency reported the college student traveled as a tourist, but he wanted to destroy “the unity of North Korea with ‘the tacit connivance of the U.S. government.'”
Warmbier booked his trip through Chinese company Young Pioneer Tours. They acknowledged his arrest shortly after it occurred.
“We can confirm that the reports that one of our clients is being detained in Pyongyang are true,” the company wrote on its website. “Their family have been informed and we are in contact with the Swedish Embassy, who are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the case.”
The U.S. does not have any diplomatic relations with North Korea. The Swedish Embassy usually “acts as the protecting interest for U.S. citizens.”
Last July, leftist organization ANSWER Coalition offered trips for Americans to North Korea. It promised the trips “will show participants that ‘corporate-owned mainstream media’ has ‘demonized’ the country’s dictatorship.” It also encouraged the country to “normalize relations” with the regime.
“The best way to learn about any country is to experience it firsthand. This is especially true for the DPRK (North Korea), Cuba, Vietnam and China. Relying on the demonized images presented by the corporate-owned mainstream media and government mouthpieces is only a recipe for ignorance and hostility,” ANSWER Coalition wrote in an email.