US rage: father lashes out at North Korea

“Brutalised and terrorised”: Otto Warmbier is led away after his televised trial in March 2016.

‘North Korea is a pariah regime. They’re brutal and they’re terroristic’ says the father of a US student freed by North Korea this week in a coma. Will this push a horrified nation to war?

Prom king. Varsity soccer player. “Just a good, funny dude.”

When 21-year-old Otto Warmbier went to North Korea in December 2015, he was a successful all-American kid going on an adventure holiday. On Tuesday, after a year and a half of imprisonment in the Hermit Kingdom, he came home in a coma.

During his holiday, Warmbier was arrested and accused of trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel. After a brief show trial, he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour.

What happened next is unclear. North Korean official claims that Warmbier came down with food poisoning, was given a sleeping pill, and slipped into a coma.

However, a senior US official told The New York Times that Warmbier had been repeatedly beaten. His parents insist he was “brutalised and terrorised” by his captors.

Communist North Korea has been at odds with the West ever since it split from the capitalist South in the 1950s. Donald Trump’s administration has called North Korea “the most urgent and dangerous threat to peace and security”.

He has said he would consider meeting its leader Kim Jong-un, but has also warned of a “major, major conflict” if it continues to conduct provocative missile launches.

North Korea often holds Americans hostage. According to experts, however, it rarely abuses them physically. Why is Warmbier different?

Checkered Korea

North Korea is afraid, say some. It wants to avoid war at all costs. Hostages are only useful as bargaining chips, which is why they are kept in good shape. Something went badly wrong with Warmbier. The country has sent him back, humiliated.

Quite the opposite, reply others. Kim’s regime thrives on antagonising the West. Warmbier is a walking symbol of America. His captors brutalised him to provoke their enemy. The worry is that Trump could take the bait.

You Decide

  1. Should Trump approach North Korea through diplomacy, force or both?

Activities

  1. Write a country profile for both North and South Korea. Include crucial information about their history, society and culture.

Some People Say...

“Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”

— Michael Corleone

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
After his arrest, Warmbier confessed to his crime (probably under coercion), and said he was part of an official US plot to bring down “the foundation of [North Korea’s] single-minded unity”. He is now in hospital in Cincinnati.
What do we not know?
Whether Warmbier will recover. Experts say that if he has been unconscious for that long, the chances of a full recovery are slim.

Word Watch

Adventure holiday
Around 5,000 Western tourists visit North Korea every year, generally with a tour company that helps them navigate the country’s very strict rules.
Hermit Kingdom
A nickname for North Korea that refers to its self-imposed isolation from the world.
Show trial
A public trial set up to sway public opinion, rather than judge the defendant in a legitimate way.
Split
Korea was split into two states after the Korean War (1950–53), in which the Soviet- and China-backed North fought the West-backed South, ended in a stalemate.

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