Otto Warmbier died

. . . for supposedly taking as a souvenir a propaganda poster from his Pyongyang hotel. What a horrible outcome from such a trivial act. Warmbier had extensive brain damage that the North Koreans pretended was due to botulism and a sleeping pill. My guess is that they beat the living daylights out of him.

From CNN:

Otto Warmbier, the American college student who returned home last week in a coma after 17 months of detention in North Korea, died Monday afternoon, his family said in a statement.

“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home.”

Warmbier was surrounded by his family when he died at 2:20 p.m., the statement said.

“Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”

Warmbier went to North Korea in the spring of 2016 with the Young Pioneer Tours travel group, a company that takes participants to places they wouldn’t normally go.

The trip was supposed to last five days. But as he tried to depart from Pyongyang’s airport, Warmbier was stopped by security.

According to the North Korean government, he was detained because he had sneaked onto a restricted floor of his hotel and had stolen a political poster. He later confessed to the crime, but it’s not known if the confession was voluntary.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor and spent 17 months in North Korea before being released.

He arrived home June 13 suffering from significant brain damage, unable to respond to verbal communication.

I suppose La Sha isn’t disturbed, as his white privilege brought it all on. 

He was 22, and the U.S. didn’t find out that Warmbier was in a coma until a week before they let him go. North Korea is without doubt the most demonic and despotic country on Earth.


  1. BobTerrace
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    The UN should charge Kim Jong Un with murder and North Korea with crimes against humanity.

    • BJ
      Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      It would accomplish nothing. They’re completely cut off by every country except China (which has been very slowly moving further away from them), and it’s not like an attack can be launched against them, lest they reign nuclear hellfire down upon their neighbors.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

        China props up N Korea because they don’t want a united, democratic Korea on it’s border.

        S Korea says it wants unification, but knows its economy cannot absorb 25 million starving people.

        The US only cares about nukes.

        So millions of people continue to suffer.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

    This is so heart breaking. Murdered for such a trivial thing at such a young age with all that potential lost.

    Those awful statements La Sha wrote should be thrown back to her now. How can one human wish such harm on someone just because he was a white American. Despicable.

    • Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      La Sha’s article was “updated 2 hours ago”, but not to apologize. This is still there:

      “As I’ve said, living 15 years performing manual labor in North Korea is unimaginable, but so is going to a place I know I’m unwelcome and violating their laws. I’m a black woman though. The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense. He is now an outsider at the mercy of a government unfazed by his cries for help. I get it.”

      • somer
        Posted June 19, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

        Disgusting, she’s an appalling person and her blackness (real or assumed I don’t know, given her name) is no excuse. Of course comments to such a controversial and outrageous article are not allowed. Its a sleazy rag really.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted June 19, 2017 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

          The photo accompanying her material is of an African woman. Her Twitter account is confirmed users only but if you read other stuff of hers on HuffPo and on KinFolk Collective, this is pretty par for the course.

          I recall a black speaker at Kent State in 1990 graciously observing that some black students got shot at Jackson State 11 days after the Kent State shootings and over the years had gotten increasingly less attention than the KSU students. But he didn’t denigrate the memory of the KSU students in observing this.

          I was tempted to have a little Schadenfreude when I discovered in my 20s that a kid who bullied me endlessly in junior high had gotten arrested in Mexico. That all evaporated when I discovered he got a 25 year sentence for marijuana possession.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        She is a damn hypocrite. If she suffers so much from white racism in the USA, she can emigrate to any black-majority country that would accept her. Not like being locked in North Korea.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense

        She is equating being done to death in a horrible way, in a horrible prison, to her daily troubles.*

        She really needs to get a little perspective. This is using the victim card as an excuse/substitute for having a life.

        I guess if you are “a victim” then all behavior is forgiven — including her published glob of obscenity.

        * I’d like to know her socioeconomic status …

  3. BJ
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    “North Korea is without doubt the most demonic and despotic country on Earth.”

    Except for the US, I’m sure La Sha would tell us.

    What a horrifying story. I’m sure we’ll never see a single word of remorse or apology from La Sha or the website that published her vitriol.

    • Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      That is too often true. When a terrible thing is done by a people from a foreign land, the retort is ‘whataboutery’. As if that settles matters.

      • Rita
        Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink


      • Scote
        Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

        I think “what aboutery” as you call it is actually justified in this case. It puts the case into perspective. The US justice system is in desperate need of massive reform. It is unarguably racist. It is inhumane. And it is rife with profit motive to increase incarceration rates and treat prisoners poorly.

        I’m all for calling out the regressive left on their excesses, but tragic as this is, we have people dying in our own prisons all the time, with one dying of thirst for goodness sake in Sheriff David A. Clarke’s jail.

        That’s not to say the death of this young man isn’t tragic – I think it is – but it is getting so much press because “North Korea”. Meanwhile, but way, way more kids are dying in our own cities, our jails and our prisons. Our prison system is so bad we all take it for granted that prisoners will get raped.

        • Posted June 19, 2017 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

          I would rather be a black man in a super max prison in the U.S. than any variety of prisonor in North Korea. There really is no comparison.

          • Frank Bath
            Posted June 19, 2017 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

            Get a grip. The US justice system doesn’t beat North Koreans to death to teach the country a lesson.

            • Scote
              Posted June 19, 2017 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

              No, we don’t even have that excuse.

              • Craw
                Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:24 am | Permalink

                Do you see that this comment undercuts your earlier claim not to be engaging in “whataboutery” and excuse-making? You are explicitly making an excuse. As our host noted below you are also peddling false claims about botulism. That also seems like excuse making to me.

                There really is a lot wrong with US prisons. And Canadian prisons. And Burmese prisons. And Saudi prisons. And Polish prisons. And Chinese prisons. None of which is remotely relevant to kidnapping and murdering people to spite their governments. None of which excuses or minimizes such crimes.

            • Michael Waterhouse
              Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

              Don’t need to when you can rain a million tons of hellfire over the whole country.

        • Robert Ryder
          Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:40 am | Permalink

          I don’t dispute for a moment that our penal system needs reform and there are awful abuses of power. I think we were on our way to that reform before the election of Trump. It is not correct, however, to imply that our penal system and the excesses of police power do not receive press attention at the expense of the North Korea story. Both stories deserve attention. I doubt most of the people of North Korea will ever know of the story of Warmbier.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

            No, as most people don’t know the stories of endless tragedies in various justice systems.

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    I was wondering what that story was about. Took PCC(E) the first paragraph to cut through the bull.

    • Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      I had the wrong link to my previous post on this issue; it’s now fixed,

  5. Ashutosh Jogalekar
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I hope that all the people who react with outrage to mansplaining and microagressions in the U.S. will react with equal outrage against these barbarians. What a horrible outcome for such a young life.

  6. rickflick
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    It is sad to think there are people on Earth with no sense of humanity. Hitler and Stalin were the same kind of monster as Un. Can these people ever be removed or made harmless? They have to have the support of millions of their fellow human beings. What a shame.

  7. ploubere
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

    Given the North Koreans’ continued demonstrations of barbarity, I’m mystified as to why there are tours going there. Clearly it is a dangerous place.

  8. Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    I like to think that even despotic regimes have some scrap of rationality. Why did the DPNK commit this atrocity? What did it possibly gain by killing this young man because of a trivial offense?

    • Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think they intended to kill him; after all, he was a valuable hostage. I think they just want to hurt him really bad.

      • Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I agree. But if he was valuable to them, they should have at least treated him as such. What a terrible regime.

    • Posted June 19, 2017 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps it was a hostage-taking ploy gone bad. I hope no one else will chance visiting North Korea after this.

    • Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:26 pm | Permalink

      So he didn’t talk.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

      Nothing but it satisfied the thugs and bullies who thrive i totalitarian governments and probably enjoyed beating him to death.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 at 12:39 am | Permalink


        Or just as likely (as in Maoist China), it’s fear all the way down. Possibly a guard dare not be seen showing leniency, or being too reluctant to beat up a politically incorrect prisoner, for fear of being accused of treason himself.

        • rickflick
          Posted June 20, 2017 at 5:05 am | Permalink

          Over time I suspect there is a filtering process whereby people with the most suitably sadistic personality profile are drawn to become official torturers. The close circle around the despotic leader consists of those candidates who were corrupt in the proper way to match the corrupt style of the leader. Henchmen.

  9. LB
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

    I don’t understand why anyone would want to visit this place. I hope people will stop going there. This is so incredibly sad. 😦

    • Kevin
      Posted June 19, 2017 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      I think some people would go for the adventure and risk. To say they have done it. It’s odd, but that motivation is there.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes, I know of some young people (western Europeans) who intentionally went to, for instance, Lebanon during the most recent civil war there, and Afghanistan during the civil strife there.

        They wanted “adventure”.

        They survived. They were lucky.

    • Posted June 20, 2017 at 9:14 am | Permalink

      I spent a lot of time in East Germany when I was around Warmbler’s age. I am glad to have been exposed to all that, and it made me greatly appreciate my fortunate freedom, and makes me ever wary of any erosion of our civil liberties.

      There was a shop in East Berlin that sold copies of propaganda posters, of which I bought several. I also scored an FDJ (official youth organization) shirt, so can empathize with Warmbler’s desire for souvenirs.

      Youth carries a sense of invincibility, too. On a few occasions, I traveled “schwarz” where I wasn’t permitted, regularly smuggled in westmarks, so I could’ve gotten into some trouble. Nothing like in NK, though, and I think leading youth trips there is far too risky.

  10. Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Any American who chooses to travel to such a dangerous country has to know the risk they’re taking. I wish they wouldn’t put themselves in harms way. Does anyone from his church who may have motivated him to do this think that a propaganda poster was worth his severe punishment and, as it turned out, his life?
    My sympathies to his family for the loss of their son and to our country for a bright young man whose potential wasn’t able to be realized.

  11. Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Shit happens everywhere every day, but somehow this does seem especially horrible.

  12. Andy
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I feel very sorry for his family. I also have to admit that I would certainly never visit that ‘necrocracy’. If the link works, I recommend Hitchens writing on this topic:

  13. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    My guess is that they beat the living daylights out of him.

    Maybe, but that does not fit the released medical statements – they found nothing indicating that. I do not know what an autopsy can contribute.

    But the same statements has claimed the extensive brain damage – seen as loss of recognition, speech, and sight – is explainable by oxygen deprivation. Perhaps North Korea has taken up waterboarding torture? Or he tried to kill himself by strangulation?

    • Scote
      Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      On the other hand, it doesn’t seem all that improbable that food in North Korean prisons is inadequate and dangerous… (hell, it is pretty terrible in US prisons, so what on earth would it be like in NK?)

      Not saying it was food poisoning, but it is at least plausible.

      • Posted June 19, 2017 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

        You are aware, aren’t you, that the doctors tested for botulism and found not the slightest evidence of that bacterium or the damage it causes in botulism. Seriously, “at least plausible”? The doctors say IMPLAUSIBLE.

      • W.Benson
        Posted June 19, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

        Perhaps it was neglect and poor jail conditions. It happens quite often when foreigners are jailed in a countries with long histories of racism and bigotry.

        • Posted June 20, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

          I disagree with your implication that the USA is no better than North Korea.

          • W.Benson
            Posted June 20, 2017 at 10:05 am | Permalink

            You read me wrong. I object to your implication that the US lacks major flaws.

            • Posted June 20, 2017 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

              Other commenters below have also read you wrong.

      • Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:57 am | Permalink

        Where do you get your information on prison food in the US, and why would you associate it with “inadequate and dangerous”?

    • jeffery
      Posted June 19, 2017 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

      I suspect it was deliberate, and for several reasons: repeated application of a plastic bag over the mouth and nose is simple and easy; they didn’t want him to be able to describe any details of his imprisonment; it serves as a “warning” to others, and, his being a white American, unlike many other “detainees” who have been Asian, it’s a perfect expression of their hatred for the U.S. and a perfect expression of their, “We’ll eff with you and you can’t do anything about it” M.O. If I believed in prayer, I would pray for the day when Kim and his inner-circle would be torn to pieces by the bare hands of his own people….

    • Adam M.
      Posted June 19, 2017 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

      Death (or near death) by strangulation tends to be easily detectable (due to damage to the airway), but then so does being badly beaten. It’s not clear whether the “extensive brain damage” was accompanied by signs of head trauma or not, but the presence or absence of such signs would be a major clue.

      Regardless of whether he was beaten to near death, it’s clear that something bad happened to him…

  14. W.Benson
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    The is from a 2016 Human Rights Watch report: “The death reviews, from mid-2012 to mid-2015, reveal substandard medical care and violations of applicable detention standards. Two independent medical experts consulted by Human Rights Watch concluded that these failures probably contributed to the deaths of 7 of the 18 detainees, while potentially putting many other detainees in danger as well. The records also show evidence of the misuse of isolation for people with mental disabilities, inadequate mental health evaluation and treatment, and broader medical care failures.” Several additional deaths have occurred since 2015. Many US detention facilities are deplorable. While the death of Otto Warmbier is regrettable and North Korea is a disgrace, can the US (and US citizen who assume an exceptional righteousness) claim to be objectively kinder, more merciful, and more more moral in their actions with respect to foreigners imprisoned for immigration issues?

    • Dave
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 5:56 am | Permalink

      “…can the US (and US citizen who assume an exceptional righteousness) claim to be objectively kinder, more merciful, and more more moral in their actions with respect to foreigners imprisoned for immigration issues?”

      The answer to your question is YES.

      There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the USA – a constitutional democratic state, albeit imperfect, as all such states are, and a totalitarian tyranny like North Korea. North Korea doesn’t have any “immigration issues”, because it’s a monstrous hellhole that people risk their lives to escape. In contrast, the USA, for all its faults, is a magnet for immigrants from every corner of the world, and people routinely risk their lives to get into it. It’s sickening “whataboutery” to claim otherwise.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

        There is no comparison between regimes, but there are many instances of mistreatment, bad mistreatment of prisoners in all our systems.
        Except probably Norway and the like.

    • somer
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      I read at the HRW link re detention conditions in the US and this is about inadequate medical treatment not actual deliberate abuse and in NK medical attention would be more or less non existent. Comparing to the NK situation looks to me like comparing apples and oranges. North Korea shows dark at night via satellite because what power there is overnight is diverted to the military weapons facilities. They are not interested in the welfare state. They are less interested in civil rights and No one wants to migrate there. Yes there is racism in the US but North Koreans believe they are the purest race in the world and that their leader is a kind of god.

      The things reported in the HRW report happened to people seeking to live in the US because it is desirable to live there – moreover many seek to enter illegally. No state has unlimited intake capacity although a wealthy state should try their best to provide good medical care to anyone detained. They were not visitors bringing in cash and staying a short time as tourists as was the case with Otto Warmbier.

  15. jeffery
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    Any American who gives a DIME, in any way, shape, or form to this insane, barbaric regime (with whom we are still technically at war) should be charged with treason.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 19, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    The pushback against La Sha online has been considerable, but I wait to see if she will say anything.

    • Posted June 20, 2017 at 4:06 am | Permalink

      The pushback needs to also be against HuffPo for publishing the article and against the entire ideology that legitimises this kind of dehumanisation.

      • Craw
        Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

        It’s far from the only example. To quote a short piece by Ed Driscoll:

        At the time of his sentencing last year by the North Koreans, Comedy Central’s Larry Willmore said, “It’s just tough for me to have much sympathy for this guy and his crocodile tears.” Salon approvingly tweeted a link to Willmore’s sketch, adding, “Frat boy Otto Frederick Warmbier gets the ‘Nightly Show’ treatment he richly deserves.”

        Richly deserves.

        • somer
          Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

          So much for “comedy”.

  17. Tom
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it it time for the West and China to bite the NK bullet and oust KIm?
    The resources are available to prepare the refugee camps and food dumps for when as we all suspect NK falls apart following his removal.The alternative, to leave him in power risks a very expensive arms buildup or even war to prevent NK becoming aggressively expansionist whilst we have the option of managing a far cheaper refugee crisis now with financial assistance to South Korea and China if necessary.

    • Dave
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 6:54 am | Permalink

      The time to do that would have been sometime in the 1990s, during the reign of the previous Kims, when NK was severely weakened by famine and before they had an operational nuclear armory. It would have been bloody and violent no doubt, with lots of collateral damage in South Korea, but the regime could probably have been toppled.

      I fear it’s too late now. Any attempt to oust the regime would probably result in NK launching nuclear attacks on South Korea, Japan, and maybe even on China itself, if China was seen to be conniving with the US. I imagine that Beijing is comfortably within range of North Korean missiles, and if Kim felt he had his back to the wall, what would he have to lose? Perhaps anti-ballistic missile defences are now sophisticated enough to intercept and destroy any missiles NK might launch – I don’t know the technical capacities of these things, but it would be horribly dangerous. Would China be willing to take that risk? I doubt it.

      • Tom
        Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        I was thinking of a palace coup not an attack.
        The eradication of his brother indicates that one of his fears at the moment is a rival contender but by becoming more ruthless and eliminating any small sign opposition, he may encourage a clique encouraged by outside support to take action against him before they be marked for execution for some trivial insult to His Tubbiness.

    • somer
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

      “How to deal with North Korea: There are no good options, but some are worse than others”

  18. Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    I’m sure La Sha sees this as appropriate punishment for his choice of parents …

  19. Mike
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    “I’m a black woman though. The hopeless fear Warmbier is now experiencing is my daily reality living in a country where white men like him are willfully oblivious to my suffering even as they are complicit in maintaining the power structures which ensure their supremacy at my expense. He is now an outsider at the mercy of a government unfazed by his cries for help. I get it.”

    One difference,your not doing 15 hard, while having the shit beaten out of you, then you can compare yourself to this poor kid.

  20. Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    La Sha’s heartless, racist editorial takes Privilege™ to reductio ad absurdum, thus exposing how the construct is wholly unfalsifiable and ultimately worthless as an explanatory tool for anything.

  21. Posted June 20, 2017 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    La Sha’s masterpiece should be printed in many copies and shown to every academic, journalist or (most importantly) politician who babbles about “white privilege”.

  22. Posted June 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve got a question.

    I am now seeing LGBTQ translated as: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer. I always thought it was questioning.

    I must be behind the times.

    Also: I always thought “queer” was simply a synonym for gay (man) or lesbian (woman).

    Has this changed recently?

  23. Posted June 20, 2017 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    “I suppose La Sha isn’t disturbed, as his white privilege brought it all on.”
    Seriously, was that necessary?

    I think we should totally bomb the s**t out of North Korea!…No wait! Better! We should drop Donald Trump on them along with a bag of Cheetos and see if they can tell the difference.

    I’m sorry to hear about Otto…my thoughts and condolences go out his family and friends. I’m sure all the usual people will “strongly condemn” this. What else can be done? Unfortunately, nothing will bring him back.

  24. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I would venture to suggest that the US has jailed huge numbers of people over trivia, and then beat the living shit out of them.

    “Cool hand Luke”

    Most third world countries have pretty poor conditions in general and worse in jails.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Sure, but it’s actually illegal to do so and the US is no North Korea. In North Korea im sure there aren’t the inconvenient laws that at least make doing something like beating prisoners a bit of a risk.

      Hell, if the US was as bad as North Korea I’d feel a lot like South Koreans feel.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:28 pm | Permalink

        I don’t know if Nth Korea has laws against beating prisoners, maybe they do.

        I am not comparing the countries overall, I am critiquing the the condemnation of a country baaed on one incident, such incident having been perpetrated by our own systems many time in many ways.

        It has taken quite a long time here in Aus to clean up the prison and police systems.
        They are pretty good now, but one could find some pretty nasty examples if one wanted.

        Plus, it is a given that if one is caught for something in our neighbouring Asian countries, prison conditions will be poor.

  25. Michael Waterhouse
    Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Australia has had quite a few deaths in custody incidents, especially of indigenous people.

  26. Posted June 21, 2017 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    This broke my heart. I cant even begin to imagine how terrifying it must have been for him and his family.

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