Otto Warmbier, the most recent US citizen to be detained and charged with a crime in North Korea, has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor stemming from a crime against the state. As Warmbier was getting ready to exit North Korea, he was stopped at the airport and taken into custody, eventually being accused of trying to steal a propaganda sign from his hotel room. The University of Virginia student alleged that a member of his church offered him a 10,000 dollar car to bring a propaganda symbol home, leading to the North Koreans referring to this act as a “college-style prank”. US officials have said that North Korea is using Warmbier for “political purposes” as the communist country has become even more isolated from the rest of the world, amid newly implemented sanctions as a result of their latest missile test. It remains to be seen what will come of Warmbier in North Korea; however, Pyongyang has a tendency to hand down lengthy sentences to foreigners but freeing them sometime after.
As a US citizen, I obviously empathize and sympathize with Warmbier since he is trapped in North Korea as of now, but what was he thinking? He was on a tour of North Korea with fellow students, so I am sure whatever supervisors were there explained to him that this is not the country to mess around in. There is a very good reason why North Korea is isolated from the world: their regime is unlike any other in the world. Pyongyang does not want any foreigners coming into the country and potentially revealing what life is really like in North Korea, making them more likely to detain foreigners suspected of messing with the state. Warmbier does not deserve this sentence by any means and he should be back in the states like his fellow students, but instead he made an extremely idiotic move. Assuming that he will be freed relatively soon, I am sure he will have learned his lesson. This situation just goes to show: stupidity sometimes trumps common sense, thus making it hard for me to completely sympathize with him. The lesson learned here is do not ever screw around in North Korea.
–Contributed by R.A.