American student Otto Frederick Warmbier, center, arrives at a court for his trial in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, on March 16, 2015. American student Otto Frederick Warmbier, held by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for anti-DPRK crimes, the Supreme Court of the DPRK announced Wednesday. (Xinhua/Lu Rui via Getty Images)
(JTA) — The parents of Jewish American college student Otto Warmbier are working to find and shut down illicit North Korean business assets around the world in order to hold its government accountable for widespread human rights abuses.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier also called for the Trump administration to raise North Korea’s human rights problems while negotiating the country’s disarmament from nuclear weapons.
Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea for over a year and died shortly after his return home to Cincinnati, Ohio, in June 2017 in a coma. He was 22.
The Warmbiers were speaking last week at a forum hosted by a Seoul-based group representing the families of South Koreans abducted by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War, the Associated Press reported.
In December 2018, a U.S. federal judge ordered North Korea to pay a $501 million in a wrongful death suit filed by the Warmbiers, which they are unlikely to collect.
In July, they filed a claim in federal court in New York for a North Korean cargo ship seized by the U.S. The vessel was detained in May because it was carrying coal to be sold in other countries in violation of United Nations sanctions.
The University of Virginia student had been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster on what North Korea claimed were orders from an Ohio Methodist church. Upon his release, North Korea said Warmbier’s health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism. Warmbier’s doctors in the U.S. said he suffered extensive brain damage. Warmbier was traveling to Hong Kong for a study abroad program when he decided to visit North Korea on a guided tour.