News / Asia

    Detained American in North Korea Makes 'Public Confession'

    American student Otto Warmbier, center, arrives at the People's Cultural House, as Warmbier is presented to reporters Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.
    American student Otto Warmbier, center, arrives at the People's Cultural House, as Warmbier is presented to reporters Monday, Feb. 29, 2016.
    VOA News

    An American college student detained in North Korea has publicly confessed to attempting to steal a political banner from a Pyongyang hotel.

    Otto Warmbier appeared before a group of domestic and foreign journalists Monday in the North Korean capital, accompanied by North Korean guards. The 21-year-old University of Virginia student, who was visiting North Korea with a tour group, was arrested last month before boarding a plane out of the country.  He has been charged with committing a hostile act against the state, with the help of the United States.

    WATCH: Detained American makes confession in North Korea

    Detained American in North Korea Makes 'Public Confession'i
    X
    February 29, 2016 1:22 PM
    American college student Otto Warmbier, detained in North Korea, publicly confessed to attempting to steal a political banner from a Pyongyang hotel.

    Warmbier told reporters he removed a political slogan from a staff-only area of the hotel where the group was staying to give to a member of his church who wanted the banner to display as a "trophy."  He said the church member offered him a used car worth $10,000. If he was caught and unable to return, the church member said Warmbier's mother would get $200,000.  

    Pyongyang has not said what possible punishment Warmbier may face.

    American student Otto Warmbier, right, bows as Warmbier is presented to the reporters, Feb. 29, 2016.
    American student Otto Warmbier, right, bows as Warmbier is presented to the reporters, Feb. 29, 2016.

    A State Department spokesman later Monday said that as a general practice, North Korea arrests and imprisons people for actions that would not give rise to arrests, let alone imprisonment, in the United States. He added there's little doubt that North Korea uses detention as a tool for propaganda purposes.

    North Korea has often detained Americans and other foreign citizens on trumped up charges. The detainees are usually brought before foreign journalists to read statements confessing to crimes committed against the dictatorial regime.  The statements are widely considered to have been coerced, and detainees often recant their confessions after their release.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Deborah (USA)
    March 13, 2016 10:57 PM
    He did it on a dare and was promised money. It was an incredibly stupid action, knowing the government of North Korea. I hope he is released soon and it be a lesson to international travelers to respect the laws of the country they visit.
    In Response

    by: j70141
    March 16, 2016 2:06 PM
    I don't hope for any such thing. I hope they detain him for the full 15 years. As an added bonus, we need to send over the person that wanted to put the banner in the church too. I hope they detain as many stupid people as they can, we have too many here.

    by: kanaikaal irumporai
    February 29, 2016 3:33 PM
    The fact that this guy and others like dare to go to NK is itself suspicious. Unless there's some sort of incentives offered from the US govt. they are no fools to take such risks. So, all in all, this and others like it, are nothing other than an attempt by the US intelligence apparaus to do harm to NK. similar to what they tried on Fidel Castro. This guy should not be released untill Mr. Obama kneels down and begs for his pardon.

    by: Sirantha
    February 29, 2016 1:22 PM
    I also think this's not a big deal, Korean should be forgiven to him.

    by: william li from: canada
    February 29, 2016 12:46 PM
    I dont believe its an engineered confession since stealing a banner is not a big deal in US. There is highly a chance that this little american did do this stupid thing. He was just being ignorant. Tourists should be taught to respect the local laws and cultures to avoid similar troubles.

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