Where Is Otto Warmbier?
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Politics and Activism

Where Is Otto Warmbier?

No word on the whereabouts of the UVA student since March

Where Is Otto Warmbier?
Daily Progress

In March, America watched in horror as 21-year-old University of Virginia Junior Otto Warmbier was paraded in front of cameras in North Korea. Warmbier was convicted of stealing a propaganda banner and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in one of North Korea's prison camps. We watched as he was mercilessly dragged away by two North Korean guards from his one hour trial and fingerprinted. Tears were streaming down his face, and he was then forcibly removed out of the courthouse.

Fast forward to seven months later, and the media has all but forgotten about Otto Warmbier. Those close to him described Warmbier as a bright college student, claiming that he's facing too harsh of a sentence for what would be considered a mild crime in the United States.

With all this information, I just have one question:

Where is he? Where is Otto Frederick Warmbier?

Right after his sentencing, state officials were saying Warmbier should be released. With that being the end of any known public dialogue.

I was able to find the full press conference in which Warmbier confessed, which can be seen here. I emailed the CIA about new information, and they told me to submit a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) Request. I filed one, and there is no new information. I scoured the U.S. State Department website, which was a three-hour effort, only to find no information on anyone with the last name "Warmbier." I attempted to file an FOI with the State Department in regards to this, only to no avail et again. The instructions were so ambiguous that neither I nor the people around me could figure out what was required. I emailed a senator from Warmbier's home state of Ohio, and still, no reply. The internet is fruitless of new information on him or anything about his whereabouts following his March sentencing.

The only thing I could find that was somewhat current was this message board, where a bunch of internet users were arguing about different aspects of the case. It dried up about a month after the sentencing; no insights whatsoever for any actual news about the man in question.

Nobody knows where this kid is.

Warmbier took a voyage to North Korea in late December 2015 with Young Pioneer Tours, a China-based group that prides itself in being the first of its kind to offer access to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Once they arrived, Warmbier and his group stayed in the Yanggakdo International Hotel, the only 4-star hotel in the DPRK. On the night of January 1, 2016, a surveillance camera caught Warmbier allegedly sneaking into a staff only section of the hotel, and tearing down a political poster that translated to, "Let's arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il patriotism!" Warmbier was arrested the next day as he was leaving the country, and held in prison until his conviction and sentencing wrapped up.

When Warmbier was ushered out of the courtroom, he looked distraught, scared, and ashamed. His next destination was unknown to all internationally except for top DPRK officials.

In an interview for NK News, Ohio native Jeffrey Fowle talked about his time being held prisoner in North Korea. While he was never put into a labor camp, one of the other Americans who was imprisoned at the same time as him, Kenneth Bae, was. It seemed like a coin flip on whether you go to a labor camp, or if you spend time locked in a hotel.

It is unknown if Warmbier is being held in a hotel and being treated like Fowle, or if he is being worked to the bone like Bae was.

There is good news though, according to Suzanne Schlote, chairman of the North Korea freedom coalition based in Washington D.C.

In an interview with The Guardian right after Warmbier's sentencing, Schlote said that the college student will probably not be put into one of the harshest labor camps (death camps) because the DPRK does not want the world to know about the atrocities they are committing in these camps. They will allegedly use Warmbier as a bargaining tool, and the force they use on him will depend on how hard the U.S. will push North Korea to release him.

While this is comforting, this isn't a guarantee of Warmbier's safety, or his life. Considering the account of Kenneth Bae being placed into a camp, there is no 100 percent solid guarantee that Warmbier is not in one. Plus the fact that there's no formula to figure out where in the world he actually is.

My other questions are, why hasn't the media tried to keep Otto Warmbier's name in the news? Why haven't we facilitated his release yet? Where is he?

Maybe he was stupid to travel to North Korea, a place that no American is ever encouraged to, or even allowed to go. But now he's trapped in a place that is rife with human rights violations, and the lines of communication have gone dark on his whereabouts. That is incredibly concerning to me, not only as a fellow college student who is the same age as Warmbier, but as an American citizen.

The thought of an American citizen languishing away in a North Korean prison camp, or worse, already dead, while our administration does nothing about it is absolutely infuriating. He should not have to spend 15 years being subject to physical, mental and emotional torture for stealing a sign. I am maddened by the government's lack of ability to keep tabs on Warmbier's location, and their inability to retrieve him from the black hole that is the DPRK.

He needs to come home before he gets killed. He needs to come home because no American belongs in North Korea.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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