Here’s more proof that North Korea plays no games. On Wednesday (March 16), a U.S. college student received a pretty harsh punishment of 15 years hard labor for allegedly stealing a banner bearing the name of former leader Kim Jong Il.
Otto Warmbier was convicted of committing “crimes against the state.” His trial lasted a whole hour.
The 21-year-old University of Virginia student who hails from Wyoming, Ohio tearfully begged for mercy as he admitted to making “the worst mistake” of his life. The propaganda poster in question featured the slogan: “Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong Il patriotism!”
Warmbier’s own tour guide dropped a dime on him in court, though he was arrested at the airport following what was supposed to be a five-day trip. Photo evidence reportedly showed Warmbier sneaking into a restricted staff area of the Yanggakao International Hotel on Jan. 1, and jacking the banner. His fingerprints were also used to match him to the crime.
Despite apologizing in what is being called a scripted mea culpa, Warmbier’s actions are considered a crime against the state of North Korea, and likely disrespectful to its deceased leader.
The U.S. government has since swooped in and is calling for Warmbier’s release. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest said Warmbier’s incarceration as an example of North Korea using American citizens as “pawns to pursue a political agenda.” The country has no diplomatic relations with the U.S.
Earnest “strongly urged” the North Korean government to pardon the college junior. No luck, so far.
Watch Warmbier’s apology below.