Otto Warmbier, a twenty-one-year-old University of Virginia student from Ohio held in North Korea, was sentenced today to fifteen years of hard labor. His crime: trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel in Pyongyang. His trial lasted for just one hour.
Warmbier was on a five day tour to North Korea and was arrested at the airport on January 2nd, with North Korea announcing three weeks later that they were holding the American student for an unspecified hostile act.
The economics major delivered a statement to mostly North Korea’s media last month in what experts are alleging was a directed confession, with Warmbier saying he was“impressed by the humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself.”
North Korea has sentenced other Americans to hard labor, most typically for activities relating to Christianity, and used the prisoners as bargaining chips. American officials come to take back their citizens, while North Korea propaganda portrays it as America paying homage to the hermit nation.