US Student Detained in North Korea 'Confesses'

A Baptist church, a secret society, and the US government made him do it
By Luke Roney,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 29, 2016 5:33 AM CST
Updated Feb 29, 2016 6:14 AM CST
US Student Detained in North Korea 'Confesses'
Otto Warmbier is presented to reporters on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

(Newser) – North Korea trotted out an American college student it's held for two months Monday, and 21-year-old Otto Frederick Warmbier sobbed, bowed deeply, and pleaded for forgiveness from "every one of the millions of the Korean people." "Please! I made the worst mistake of my life," Warmbier told a press conference held "at his own request." A video obtained by CNN serves as the first glimpse of Warmbier since the alleged "hotel incident" that resulted in his detention as he was trying to leave the country. "I committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel," the University of Virginia student says. According to North Korean officials and his own statement, Warmbier's motive was much more sinister than the desire to return home with a unique souvenir.

"I beg that you see how I was used and manipulated," he says, citing Z Society, the Friendship United Methodist Church of Wyoming, Ohio, and the US government as his manipulators. A North Korean official says Warmbier met with a "deaconess" of the church last year and was promised a $10,000 used car in return for sowing ideological disunity in the secretive state by taking "an important political slogan." A pastor tells CNN that Warmbier is not a member of the church. Warmbier also allegedly met with a member of Z Society, a secret philanthropic group at UVA that North Korea says is linked to the CIA, and was offered membership in exchange for completing the "mission." Reuters notes that, in the past, North Korea has used detained US citizens as leverage to get high-profile visits from the US. Warmbier's press conference comes as the UN considers new sanctions against North Korea. (Read more North Korea stories.)

We use cookies. By Clicking "OK" or any content on this site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. Read more in our privacy policy.
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.