It’s a tragedy that could have been avoided. Otto Warmbier spent 17 months as a prisoner in North Korea. In 2016, the 22-year old University of Virginia student was convicted of crimes against the state for trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel. After a trial that lasted less than an hour, Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. North Korea recently released Mr. Warmbier from detention. The American student was in a coma, and a few days after his journey home, he died at a hospital in Cincinnati. Senator John McCain likened North Korea’s mistreatment of Otto Warmbier to murder.
Should the U.S. ban its citizens from traveling to North Korea? It’s something that should be considered, especially when Americans get detained for minor infractions. John McCain believes that Americans who are “stupid” enough to travel to North Korea should sign a waiver that absolves the U.S. of any responsibility or blame if they are detained or harmed while in the rogue state. There are currently three Americans being detained in North Korea. The U.S. government believes that North Korea arrests Americans on trumped up charges in order to secure diplomatic concessions.
How did Otto Warmbier end up in a coma? What sort of inhumane treatment did he suffer at the hands of North Korea? Sadly, Otto’s family and friends will never have the answers they want. What happened to Otto Warmbier in North Korea should be a catalyst for policy change. If the U.S. government prohibits most American citizens from traveling to Cuba, a far less dangerous, brutal and formidable country than North Korea, then why doesn’t it have a stricter policy concerning Americans traveling to the totalitarian regime?
The U.S. government should do a better job to protect its citizens. Warmbier’s family will never have their young son back, but this sort of humanitarian tragedy can be prevented in the future. Young Pioneer Tours, the travel company that took Otto Warmbier to North Korea, has already announced it is no longer bringing U.S. citizens to the country.