Judge Orders North Korea to Pay Over $500M in Death of Otto Warmbier

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) -
otto Warmbier
Otto Warmbier is escorted at the Supreme Court in Pyongyang, North Korea, on March 16, 2016. (AP Photo/Jon Chol Jin)

A federal court judge issued an order Monday for North Korea to pay the parents of Otto Warmbier more than $500 million, holding the country liable for the death of their son.

In a strongly-worded opinion, Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said the large award was necessary to punish and deter North Korea. “North Korea is liable for the torture, hostage-taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier, and the injuries to his mother and father, Fred and Cindy Warmbier,” Howell wrote.

“Before Otto traveled with a tour group on a five-day trip to North Korea, he was a healthy, athletic student of economics and business in his junior year at the University of Virginia, with ‘big dreams’ and both the smarts and people skills to make him his high school class salutatorian, …” Howell wrote. “… He was blind, deaf, and brain dead when North Korea turned him over to U.S. government officials for his final trip home.”

Fred and Cindy Warmbier and the estate of their oldest son had sought more than $1 billion in damages from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with their attorneys from McGuireWoods arguing the massive financial penalty would send a strong message to the country that it cannot take U.S. citizens hostage. The Trump administration placed North Korea on the list of state sponsors of terrorism in November 2017, making the extraordinary lawsuit possible.