Judge orders North Korea to pay $500M for wrongful death of Otto Warmbier

Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of Otto Warmbier, the American who fell into a coma after being arrested in North Korea in 2016, were guests to the 2018 State of the Union address. Photo: White House official photo

Dec. 25 (UPI) — A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ordered North Korea to pay $500 million in damages to the family of an Ohio student for the wrongful death of their son.

U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued a default judgment Monday ordering North Korea to pay $450 million in punitive damages to the estate of Otto Warmbier and his parents, Fred Warmbier and Cynthia, after he died following 17 months of captivity. The remainder of the payments were to cover pain and suffering, economic losses and medical costs.

“North Korea is liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier,” Howell wrote.

Warmbier’s parents announced his death on June 19, 2017, after he was released in what physicians called a comatose medical state of “unresponsive wakefulness” after nearly a year and half in captivity in North Korea.

Warmbier, a student at the University of West Virginia, was arrested at the end of a trip to North Korea in January 2016 for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda sign and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.

His parents filed the wrongful death lawsuit in April and it was delivered to Pyongyang’s foreign ministry in October.

After his death, Warmbier’s parents criticized the North Korean government and questioned the accuracy of its claims about why their son was prevented from returning to the United States and how it treated him while in captivity.

It wasn’t clear why Warmbier fell into a coma, but physicians said it appears he received brain damage while captive.

North Korea said Warmbier contracted botulism while in detention, but U.S. doctors found no trace of the illness.


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