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I have been following the news of 21 year old Otto Warmbier, a college student originally from the Cincinnati suburb of Wyoming, Ohio, who was arrested in North Korea back in January for allegedly “perpetrating a hostile act”. His crime? Taking a political banner from a staff-only section of his hotel in North Korea. Otto Warmbier is currently an undergraduate student at the University of Virginia, but because he is originally from Cincinnati, the local papers here have been covering the situation.
There has been an update in Otto Warmbier’s case now – today the Cincinnati Enquirer reported via the AP that on Wednesday, North Korea’s high court sentenced Otto Warmbier to 15 years hard labor
Otto Warmbier was traveling to North Korea – should you?
The US State Department does officially warn against any type of travel to North Korea. Some quotes from the State Department travel advisory:
U.S. citizens have been subject to arrest and long-term detention for actions that would not be cause for arrest in the United States or other countries
Do not assume that joining a group tour or using a tour guide will prevent North Korean authorities from detaining you or arresting you. Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of U.S. citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release
It is a criminal act in North Korea to show disrespect to the country’s former leaders, Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, or to the current leader, Kim Jong Un
Otto Warmbier was traveling to North Korea via the tour group Young Pioneer Tours
And finally, let me leave you with one of my favorite Studio C sketches which features North Korea. This was one of the sketches that I enjoyed watching on my recent Emirates First Class flight
It should go without saying that this would NOT be a good sketch to watch if you actually were IN North Korea!