North Korea is a firecracker. It has dominated the news cycle lately, raising questions about how President Trump will deal with the most unstable and unpredictable nation. The Washington Post has even taken it upon themselves to offer new policy recommendations for the 45th POTUS.
The world is constantly on edge watching Kim Jong Un plow through missiles and starve his own population. But in the midst of all the chaos, people are forgetting that there is an American student involved.
Otto Warmbier, a 21-year old student from the University of Virginia, has been detained in a North Korean prison camp for approximately a year. On January 2, 2016, he was allegedly “minutes from boarding a plane back to the United States” when a military official yanked him back. Little did he know that a 15-year prison sentence awaited him, punishment for “committing a hostile act against the state.”
Overnight, Warmbier became a political bartering piece.
This story hits close to home for me, as I too am a student at the University of Virginia. There is no guarantee that Otto is still alive. There is only the assumption that he is more valuable to Kim Jong Un’s regime alive than dead. In the spirit of optimism, most Americans that have been captured by North Korea were eventually released. However, most were arrested under Kim Jong II, who was considered more predictable and less aggressive than his successor.
Some have expressed hope that President Trump will be able to free Otto. But with recent developments coming out of Pyongyang, the Capital of North Korea, it seems more unlikely. Kim Jong Un is widely assumed to be responsible for the assassination of his half-brother in Kuala Lumpur’s airport. China has suspended all coal imports from North Korea until the end of the calendar year. This decisions cuts off a major financial asset. At some point, Pyongyang will reach its breaking point. The population is already starving and crumbling, so hopefully Otto will escape unscathed before Kim Jong-Un decides it’s too late.