Did Otto Warnbier Deserve this treatment by North Korea?

I don’t know if you all remember but in 2015 an American college student was caught trying to take a poster in North Korea. He went to trial and got 15 years hard labor.

Well later he was released by NK and came home in what was initially called a coma but it was much worse. It was obvious the boy had been terribly tortured.

Here is a LINK to the story.

In it the parents described how their son was now blind and deaf. Head shaved. Teeth mangled. Body covered in bruises. Unresponsive and making just animal sounds. He died a few days later.

NK of course denies any mistreatment.

Then of course, many on the American left including THIScollege professor, say he “got what he deserved” and is a “clueless white male”. She later was not rehired after those statements.

Now I totally agree that when a person visits a foreign nation one should be careful to abide by any and all rules but I think was way excessive and I don’t know how we can ever trust a regime who allows this to happen to a tourist.

I think the treatment he received was abhorrent and basic violations of his inherent rights as a human being. I feel sorry for him to some extent. But you HAVE to know that when you visit a country like DPRK, you can’t be stupid and get away with it like you can almost anywhere else. If he did that almost anywhere else in the world, he’d probably be sitting in his dorm laughing about it at this point. But he’s dead.

Ultimately why is he dead? Because he made a conscious decision to break the law in a country where breaking the law can and does get people killed. Ignorance of this is unacceptable on his part and it cost him his life. I don’t agree that he should have been tortured or killed because of what he did, but decisions have consequences. The severity of those consequences is exponentially higher in the DPRK than anywhere else in the world. Visitors have to understand that and know it’s not worth whatever actions they think might be a funny little prank or dare.


What’s the debate?

Many on the American right including Zetetic Skeptic agree.

According to her Wikipedia page, these were her exact words:

It’s a weird combination of old person angry at the youngsters and feminism gone overboard.

I don’t know anything about the professor’s race or socio-economic level, but she emphasizes “white” and “rich” too.

Is personal responsibility just not a thing anymore? I said he didn’t deserve what happened to him. It was WAY out of proportion to his offense.

Does Otto not share any of the responsibility for what happened to him in any way or is he just a victim? If he hadn’t tried to STEAL a propaganda poster in the first place, would any of this have happened?

That’s assuming North Korea is telling the truth. Not a bet I would take.

Of course not. Yes, he did something foolish. One does not take posters from a wall in NK unless you want to be mistaken for an enemy of the regime. Still, the torture and abuse of him was in violation of international law.

Okay, so we all agree: the North Korean government treats those it considers criminals unduly harshly. Thank God we’ve finally settled this contentious topic.

Next up: bears and their selection of locations for defecation.

Nor would I, but I find it extremely hard to believe that all of the information that Otto gave during his statement was provided to him from propagandists. It sounds to me like he was trying to justify what he did by explaining extenuating circumstances, invoking a church member and some type of college hazing ritual (essentially a dare), then apologize profusely and beg for mercy. Maybe it’s all smoke. But the video along with the statement details are evidence. It’s hard to believe that NK would just randomly pick this guy, put him on trial, sentence him, torture him and kill him. What did they get out of it except additional condemnation? I think this was just a wrong place, wrong time, unfortunate event that cost this young man his life, but one that could have been avoided altogether by not visiting NK at all.

I know some people want adventure, but really? Visiting North Korea? Maybe a trip to Aspen or Hawaii would’ve gone a lot smoother.

By North Korean standards no mistreatment took place. Do a little digging into how NK routinely treats its prisoners and you’ll realize that by their standards nothing unusual or untoward took place. By the standards of everyone else, though, the treatment was unacceptable.

Me, I think Warmbier was getting the typical “treatment” of any prisoner in NK and something went wrong, perhaps the authority figure(s) involved got a little too enthused, or something else, and he suffered a catastrophic brain injury. If he’d been North Korean he would have simply been left to die. Because he was a foreigner he did receive sufficient medical treatment to keep his body alive long enough to be returned to the US. I don’t know, maybe NK thinks this is somehow using him as an example and warning to other tourists. Maybe they just needed to get rid of the problem(s) he represented.

I object to your characterization of this viewpoint as held by “many”. It’s an extreme viewpoint. If you don’t want your side tarred with the quotes of your wingnuts and whackjobs you should not tar the opposition with such, either.

To the extent that there really are young, white, rich, Christian, males in the US with a sense of entitlement there is a problem, but even most of those I think understand that NK is not a place you screw around with rules, even the minor ones.

We’re looking at a bunch of outliers here.

Plenty of people go to NK as tourists. The vast majority stay out of trouble and are smart enough to obey all rules.

Damn few on the left feel anyone “deserves” torture and brain injury. If anything, I’d say the folks are the left are more anti-torture than those on the right (and even on the right, most folks are not pro-torture)

To be perfectly clear - no, I don’t think Warmbier “deserved” what happened to him in any way shape or form. I think NK’s conduct regarding prisoners of any sort is reprehensible.

We don’t know this, he didn’t get a fair trial or have an opportunity to present a defense.

The wheel, before UrbanRedneck reinvented it.

I don’t take anything the NK regime says at face value. The charges against him might very well been manufactured. He may have offended the authorities in some manner and that’s how they chose to punish him. Remember, NK is a nation where wrong thoughts can get you thrown in jail. I don’t think he was targeted entirely at random, but I suspect what did lead to his targeting would have been astonishingly small or unimportant by our standards.

I don’t think the NK gives a flip what other countries think.

I think Warmbier was being used as a cautionary example to 1) other tourists and 2) for internal propaganda purposes. See - the Whatever Leader is protecting NK from the vicious Americans! American tourists are not permitted to violate our laws! Etc, etc. Death to the capitalist America bastard pigs!

Yes, NK has a lot of anti-American propaganda, much of it for internal consumption. I see people dismiss the latest rant from NK as that all the time. What people forget is that in NK propaganda is literally deadly serious.

^ This.

There’s a certain subset of visitors to NK who are missionaries looking for ways to bring Jesus to the masses. I’m not saying Warmbier was one - I frankly haven’t a clue either way what his religious position was - but such visitors tend to fall afoul of the NK authorities more often than other visitors. If the NK regime thought Warmbier was there to evangelize they might well have trumped up a charge against him, whether he was spreading his religion or not.

After reading the other thread on the topic, nm.

At what point was this ever a reasonable expectation in the North Korean justice system? That’s like saying the guy in the dark alley who wants to kill me didn’t give me an opportunity to defend myself before shooting me in the head. Maybe I shouldn’t have been in the dark alley after seeing a big sign on the brick wall saying, “DANGEROUS - ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK!”

Nah, not much of a debate there. What about: comical headwear and the religious leaders who wear it?

Wherever they please! That one’s easy.