After hearing about Otto Warmbier’s arrest, trial and subsequent mysterious treatment at the hands of the North Korean government, it is fair to say that most people are sympathetic to what happened to him, but he did choose to go to the most despotic nation on earth. He did this in full knowledge that North Korea does not provide the right to a fair trial and lacks human rights because in visiting North Korea, you do not need to do anything wrong by western standards.
His alleged crime involved removing a poster from a ‘hidden floor’ of Pyongyang’s Yanggakdo International Hotel and defacing it, yet there is no solid evidence to suggest he actually did this. In fact, it doesn’t actually matter whether he did or not, as there is no such thing as a right to fair trial in North Korea. There is no “you get a lawyer, you are innocent until proven guilty and you can call forth witnesses” clause in North Korea, and that is why it is a bad idea to go there.
I can sympathize with his parents who lost their son, I can sympathize to the extent whereas he shouldn’t have been tortured which was a clear human rights abuse, and I do not believe the DPRK when they stated he contracted botulism either. Hell, they probably gassed him out or threw a canister of nerve gas in his cell; North Korea has the audacity to use him as a human guinea pig. Of course, he couldn’t have told any tales through talking as he was brain damaged, so if they did something utterly against the Geneva Convention (which is a regular occurrence in the country), Warmbier could not have mentioned it and they would not have to worry about repercussions.
Here’s what gets me though; North Korea has been sanctioned to death and is a totalitarian rogue state and even the Chinese can no longer really get anything done there. If you go to North Korea, and you are thrown in the gulag; there is no help for you. There is no way the United States, and most other countries could secure your release. Washington could not have used a bunch of North Korean prisoners as exchange bargaining chips. There is no option of using a SEAL Team Six to secure your release by breaking into the prison and flying back out without starting a war; there simply is no ability to do any of these things. If you go to the DPRK, you are taking your life in your hands; and in writing this I am in no way exonerating that country’s leadership. They are so brutal and so despotic that it would put off any sane individual from wanting to go there in the first place. Now once he did, Warmbier made a terrible mistake and that is the part that causes me to lose a little bit of sympathy for him but at the very least under all international laws and norms of ethics, he shouldn’t have been used as a human guinea pig. If you want to complain about somebody being insensitive you should go troll Salon for their ill-timed article right before Warmbier died which they did not even take down for another day.
Importantly, every single thing that happens in North Korea is micromanaged propaganda. There is no internet where people can question the bottom line of what the government says in the country. So whilst I feel sorry for his parents and Salon’s actions are totally inexcusable, what this article states are absolutely innocuous. I’m simply stating that this whole incident makes me lack some sympathy when someone thinks it is a good idea to travel there to carry out something stupid like Warmbier did. What would you expect to see when you go to North Korea? Human rights abuses? Well, he saw this first hand and now he is dead. Poverty? Well, North Korea is mired in poverty. Communist-bloc structures that are falling apart? Lots of propaganda? It does not matter whether he took down the poster; there is no fair trial system in North Korea. It is a Juche communist regime; similar to the Soviet Union sixty years ago, and you find yourself very vulnerable even for the slightest offense.
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