US student held in N. Korea confesses to stealing slogan

North Korean state media says detained US student confesses to stealing political slogan

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Otto Frederick Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who has been detained in North Korea since early January, attends a new conference in Pyongyang, North Korea on February 29, 2016.

An American student, Otto Warmbier, detained in North Korea in early January for trying to steal a propaganda slogan from his Pyongyang hotel confessed to “severe crimes” against the state, North Korean state media reported on Monday.

"I committed the crime of taking out a political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel," state media quoted Warmbier telling foreign and domestic media in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, on Monday.

Warmbier said that an acquaintance who belonged to a church had offered him a used car worth $10,000 if he could present the church with the slogan as a "trophy" from North Korea, according to the state media.

The acquaintance also said the church would pay his mother $200,000 if he was detained by the North and did not return, the state media quoted Warmbier as saying.

"My crime is very severe and pre-planned," Warmbier was quoted as saying, adding that he was impressed by North Korea's "humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself."

Otto Frederick Warmbier bows during a news conference in Pyongyang, North Korea on February 29, 2016. (Reuters)

Other Westerners detained in North Korea have previously confessed to crimes against the state.

In January, North Korean state media said that Warmbier "was caught committing a hostile act against the state," which it said was "tolerated and manipulated by the US government."

Warmbier, 21-year-old student at the University of Virginia, was detained before boarding his flight to China following an unspecified incident at his hotel, his tour operator that had sponsored the trip said in January.

Warmbier was on a five-day New Year's tour of North Korea with a group of 10 other people and was delayed at immigration before being taken away by two airport officials, according to the tour operator.

The US and Canadian governments advise against travel to North Korea because the country has a long history of detaining foreigners.

In the past, Pyongyang was using detained US citizens to extract high-profile visits from the US, with which it has no formal diplomatic relations.

While the vast majority of tourists to North Korea are from China, roughly 6,000 Westerners visit the country annually despite the US and Canada’s warnings. Most of those are adventure-seekers and ignore critics who say their dollars feed a repressive regime.


TRTWorld, Reuters