On Friday, North Korea was ordered by a United States federal judge to pay the parents of American student Otto Warmbier $501 million.
North Korea is liable for “the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier,” said U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia’s Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell’s opinion.
According to The Hill, Howell found Warmbier’s estate to be entitled to $21 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages, in addition to Fred and Cindy Warmbier, Otto’s parents, each being entitled to $15 million in compensatory damages and $150 million in punitive damages.
Warmbier, a sophomore at the University of Virginia, was detained by North Korean authorities in 2016 after allegedly taking a propaganda poster off a hotel wall. He was “tried” by the secretive regime, found guilty, and sentenced to a stunning 15 years hard labor. Warmbier was likely brutally treated until the Trump administration arranged for the young American student to be brought back to the U.S. last summer. When Warmbier arrived home to his parents, he was in a comatose state and would eventually pass away at age 22.
Fred and Cindy sued the brutal North Korean regime for damages totaling nearly $1 billion in April. The Warmbier family said they were looking for “‘closure’ and wanted to ‘obtain justice for the severe injuries’ they say their son and family suffered” by filing the suit, reports The Hill.
Since it’s highly unlikely North Korea would ever pay the Warmbier family, the order, much like the suit, was mostly symbolic.
“Before Otto traveled with a tour group on a five-day trip to North Korea, he was a healthy, athletic student of economics and business in his junior year at the University of Virginia, with ‘big dreams’ and both the smarts and people skills to make him his high school class salutatorian, homecoming king, and prom king,” reads Howell’s opinion.
“He was blind, deaf, and brain dead when North Korea turned him over to U.S. government officials for his final trip home,” she continued.
“An American family, the Warmbiers, experienced North Korea’s brutality first-hand when North Korea seized their son to use as a pawn in that totalitarian state’s global shenanigans and face-off with the United States,” say court documents. “Having been compelled to keep silent during Otto’s detention in North Korea in an effort to protect his safety, Otto’s parents have since promised to ‘stand up’ and hold North Korea accountable for its ‘evil’ actions against their son.”
According to a GQ report from July 2017, President Donald Trump sent a plane to North Korea to bring Warmbier home without asking the regime’s permission first. The Daily Wire noted, “When President Donald Trump learned of American college student and North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier’s dire medical condition, he immediately sent a plane to land in Pyongyang and bring home the 22-year-old without asking North Korea’s permission first, says a report from GQ.”
Discussing the struggle to bring home his son under the Obama administration, Mr. Warmbier said he was “advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release. We did so without result. Earlier this year, Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over. … It is my understanding that [Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Y. Yun] and his team, at the direction of the president, aggressively pursued resolution of the situation.”