Earlier last year we reported how American university student Otto Frederick Warmbier, 22, had been detained in North Korea for attempting to steal a political banner from the country back to the States, which was considered a hostile act.
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The poor kid was sentenced to 15 years hard labour for his “crimes” against the state. This is a particularly horrifying prospect given the inhumane conditions in North Korea’s concentration camps. Although there had been hopes of getting Otto out much sooner, it looks like his story is about to get a lot worse. American diplomat, Bill Richardson, previously said he hoped he could successfully lobby for Otto to be set free.
The release happens when the North Koreans feel that the hostage is of no more use, they’ve milked it.
However, any chance of Kim Jong-un showing mercy to Otto seems to have disappeared, as tensions between North Korea and the US have reached a climax, with the threat of a nuclear war peaking. As the relationship between the two states looks bleaker by the minute, so does any hope for Otto. Last week the US state department said they had not heard any news about Otto and it is thought that he is being used by the North Korean regime as a weapon to use against the US. The state department said:
The welfare and safety of US 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 labour is unduly harsh for the actions Mr Warmbier allegedly took.
Despite official claims that US 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.
Looks like Otto is set to serve out his 15 years or potentially even longer if the US continues to piss off Kim. Then again, with the way things are heading, none of this will matter soon anyway. It’s the end of the world, as we know it.