Has the US Forgotten About Otto Warmbier?

'Time' delves into the case of college student captive in North Korea
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 1, 2017 3:31 PM CDT
Updated May 1, 2017 4:32 PM CDT
Has the US Forgotten About Otto Warmbier?
American student Otto Warmbier speaks during a press conference on Monday, Feb. 29, 2016, in Pyongyang, North Korea.   (AP Photo/Kim Kwang Hyon)

On Jan. 2, 2016, Otto Warmbier was detained at a North Korean airport just before entering the immigration area to return home to the US. Nearly 16 months later, he's still in North Korea, and Nash Jenkins wonders in a longform piece for Time: "Has America forgotten him?" Americans who were taken into North Korean custody before Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia student who was in the country as part of a 5-day "New Year's Party Tour," spent an average of 206 days in custody before the US negotiated a release. Warmbier has been captive 485 days. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, and the last official foreign interaction with him was more than a year ago.

Jenkins looks at Warmbier's background and the specifics of his case (he is accused of trying to steal a piece of propaganda signage, though the evidence against him is scant), but he also delves into the history of North Korea and the factors influencing the length of Warmbier's detention. Kim Jong Un, for example, is less predictable than his father—and not as interested in bargaining as his father was, explains Bill Richardson, the former New Mexico governor and congressman who has worked on Warmbier's behalf. Compounding things is the fact that Kim's US counterpart, President Trump, is "similarly unpredictable," Richardson says. Is there hope for a deal to be struck for Warmbier? Perhaps—"eventually," he says. Click for Jenkins' full piece, which also looks at the history of tourism in North Korea. (More North Korea stories.)

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