21-Year-Old Student Gets Sentenced To 15 Years Of Hard Labor In North Korea

An American college student was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea's supreme court.

According to CNN, 21-year-old Otto Warmbier of Wyoming, Ohio was detained as he was about to board a plane to leave North Korea on January 2, 2016.

The University of Virginia student entered the isolated nation on a five-day tour set up by a China-based travel company, Reuters reports.

He admitted in a press conference last month to attempting to steal a banner with a political slogan from his hotel in Pyongyang. A church member back home allegedly offered him a used car worth $10,000 in exchange for the banner, Warmbier claimed as he tearfully pleaded for his release.

It also appears Warmbier was forced to say the US government put him up to the crime. The subversion charges against him alleged the CIA and a secretive university organization were involved in the crime as well.

Warmbier reportedly said,

I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country. I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!

Warmbier's sentence was read on Wednesday following a one-hour trial. Human Rights Watch called his crime a "college-style prank," suggesting his only motivation was to simply impress some friends, Reuters reports.

Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, met with North Korean officials in New York on Tuesday to negotiate Warmbier's release.

Several Americans detained in North Korea admitted to being forced to make false statements at press conferences, according to The New York Times.

North Korea has a habit of using detainees to persuade prominent American officials such as former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton to visit the country.

Current detainees include a Korean-Canadian pastor, as well as a Korean-American and three South Korean nationals.

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Citations: North Korea sentences U.S. student Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor (CNN), U.S. student sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea (Reuters), North Korea Sentences Otto Warmbier, U.S. Student, to 15 Years' Labor (The New York Times)