It’s been over 10 months since North Korean government sent Otto Warmbier back to the United States after imprisoning him for over a year for allegedly removing a political poster from a hotel in Pyongyang. When the 22-year-old university student arrived back home, he was already in a coma.
At the time, the doctors said he was in a “state of unresponsive wakefulness” and showed no sign of “understanding language” or “awareness of his surroundings.” It was later discovered Warmbier had suffered severe brain damage and had been in that condition for almost a year.
North Korean authorities said it was a result of botulism and the young man taking a sleeping pill after his trial — even though physicians didn’t find any signs of active botulism after running some tests.
Just days after his release, Warmbier died.
Now, his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are suing Kim Jong Un’s regime for the wrongful death of their son.
“With this, the lawsuit we’re filing against North Korea, which is the narrative, the events that occurred while they had Otto hostage and they were using him as a pawn,” said the victim’s father. "We’re trying to build a pathway that leads directly to Kim and his regime to force them to be answerable for their actions.”
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., claims Warmbier was tortured and killed by the North Korean government, and seeks compensation for his death.
“I can’t let Otto die in vain,” said Cindy Warmbier, her voice heavy with emotion. “I think what I need to do is put up more pictures of Otto, so you could see what Otto was like and then see — we were so scared for the world to see Otto come off the plane. But I think that’s what made Otto famous, was that everyone saw what they did to this healthy 21-year-old.”
This lawsuit comes at a time when Washington is pressing for the release of three American citizens – Kim Dong Chul, Kim Sang-duk and Kim Hak-song – still imprisoned in the hermit kingdom.
“I’m sorry I’m so emotional, like Fred said it hasn’t been long and I don’t know how long I’ll feel like this but it’s not really getting any easier,” the grieving mother added.
Thumbnail/Banner Credits: Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images