Otto Warmbier’s family sues North Korea for ‘illegal detention, torture and killing’ of their son

The federal suit, filed Thursday, alleges the North Korean government should be held liable for Warmbier’s death


Otto Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea in March 2016. In June 2017, he was released from the country in a comatose state and died shortly after his return to the U.S.  

Courtesy KYODO Kyodo / Reuters | X01481

The parents of late University student Otto Warmbier  filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against the government of North Korea for the “hostage taking, illegal detention, torture and killing” of their son.

In their suit, Frederick and Cynthia Warmbier claim the North Korean government should be held liable for Otto’s wrongful death, intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery, and should additionally be punished under federal anti-terrorism codes. The family is demanding both economic and non-economic compensation for personal injuries stemming from the North Korean government’s actions against Otto. 

“Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son’s life,” a statement from Frederick Warmbier reads. “This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family.”

Warmbier died shortly after he returned to the U.S. in a comatose state last June following 17 months of imprisonment in North Korea. 

He was arrested while visiting North Korea with a tour company in January 2016 and accused of attempting to steal a political banner from a staff-only area in a Pyongyang hotel. He was then sentenced to 15 years of hard labor following an hour-long trial in front of the country’s Supreme Court in March 2016. 

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. 

The suit comes only a day before North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, is set to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, marking the first time a North Korean leader has entered South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. 

This is a developing story.

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