As many people know, the communist country of North Korea is one of the most secluded and isolated places in the world. It is a place that only a few get the privilege of visiting, and if they do, they must be accompanied by several guards. Some of these travelers include journalists, students, reporters, educators, photographers, and government officials. North Korean people are taught from birth to hate and not trust Americans or any outsiders. They follow strict rules that permit them from voicing, printing, or arguing against their government. The officials take any action that would go against or expose the flaws in their government very seriously with harsh punishment. Whatever is necessary to make sure that the government is respected and not spoken against is done, and the people are told it is in their best interest. People may be thrown into poorly conditioned prisons or hard labor camps, which must be served in for three generations.
On January 2, 2016, a young twenty-one year old student named Otto Warmbier was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor. The University of Virginia student traveled to the country through a program called Pioneer Tours and was taken into custody as he was boarding his plane. He was convicted of stealing a political banner from the hotel where he was staying, to which he later admitted. An emotional Warmbier took the stand and stated that “he never should have ever let something the United States government wanted him to do lure him into committing a North Korean crime and he is truly sorry.” As he confessed, he teared up, becoming very sincere and begging for the court’s forgiveness. He kept up the argument that the United States government is manipulative and encourages people to commit crimes in foreign countries. It is “the biggest mistake of my life,” said Warmbier.
The North Koreans do not easily let people off the hook so easy. They seem to used people who break their laws as examples of what will happen in the future. In this case they say that Warmbier’s act was encouraged by a purported member of an Ohio church, a secretive university organization, and even the CIA. In the past, people who have been sentenced by the North Korean government have been able to go free after a short time. The government there is not something to take lightly, but it is not impossible for his sentence to be dropped or lessened. Former New Mexico governor, and current diplomat, Bill Richardson met with North Korean officials about Warmbier’s sentence and possible release. Hopefully North Korea can send Warmbier home, and things may work out in his favor.