The parents of Otto Warmbier, the Ohio college student who died after he was released to the U.S. following a 17-month detainment in North Korea, said Friday that they are committed to holding the government accountable for its human rights abuses.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier said during a news conference in Seoul, South Korea that they intend to seek out and shut down illicit North Korean business assets around the world, having already targeted a hostel operated on the country’s embassy in Berlin and similar establishments throughout Europe.
“My mission would be to hold North Korea responsible, to recover and discover their assets around the world,” Fred Warmbier said. “We feel that if you force North Korea to engage the world in a legal standpoint, then they will have to ultimately have a dialogue. They are not going to come and have a dialogue with us any other way.”
The Warmbier’s 22-year-old son, a student at the University of Virginia, was on tour in North Korea when he allegedly stole a propaganda sign from a hotel. He was arrested in January 2016 and sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in March 2016
He fell into a coma for unknown reasons while in captivity. North Korean officials did not tell American officials until June 2017 that he had been unconscious the entire time. He died less than a week after he returned to the U.S.
In April, the U.S. government received a $2 million hospital bill from Pyongyang for Otto Warmbier’s care.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier also took the opportunity to call on the Trump administration to raise issues of North Korea’s human rights problems as it engages in negotiations to defuse the country’s nuclear threat.
During the earlier part of his presidency, President Donald Trump strongly criticized North Korea over its dismal human rights record, inviting the Warmbiers to his State of the Union address last year where he lashed out at the “depraved character” of the government led by third-generation leader Kim Jong Un.
But Trump months later began playing down the severity of North Korea’s human rights record and showering Kim with praises as they engaged in high-stakes nuclear summitry, which has so far led to three meetings but failed to produce substantial agreements on the North’s nuclear disarmament.
Fox News’ Lucia I. Suarez Sang and The Associated Press contributed to this report.