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North Korea Puts Tearful Detained American Before Cameras

PYONGYANG, North Korea—North Korea presented a detained American student before the media on Monday in Pyongyang, where he tearfully apologized for attempting to steal a political banner — at the behest, he said, of a member of a church back home who wanted it as a “trophy” — from a staff-only section of the hotel where he had been staying.

North Korea announced in late January it had arrested Otto Warmbier, a 21-year-old University of Virginia undergraduate student. It said that after entering the country as a tourist he committed an anti-state crime with “the tacit connivance of the U.S. government and under its manipulation.”

No details of what kind of charges or punishment Warmbier faces were immediately released.


According to Warmbier’s statement Monday, he wanted the banner with a political slogan on it as a trophy for the church member, who was the mother of a friend.

In previous cases, people who have been detained in North Korea and made a public confession often recant those statements after their release.

He was arrested while visiting the country with Young Pioneer Tours, an agency specializing in travel to North Korea, which is strongly discouraged by the U.S. State Department. He had been staying at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, which is located on an island in a river that runs through Pyongyang, the capital.

It is common for sections of tourist hotels to be reserved for North Korean staff and off-limits to foreigners.

In his comments, Warmbier said he was offered a used car worth $10,000 by a member of the church. He said the church member told him the slogan would be hung on its wall as a trophy. He also said he was told that if he was detained and didn’t return, $200,000 would be paid to his mother in the form of a charitable donation.

Warmbier identified the church as the Friendship United Methodist Church, which is in his hometown, Wyoming, Ohio.

Meshach Kanyion, pastor of the church, would not confirm whether he knows Warmbier or if he is a church member.

“I don’t have any comment at this


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