Parents of American Held Captive in North Korea Lament ‘Heartless Protocol’ of US Government

On January 2, 2016, 21-year-old University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was detained at Pyongyang airport in North Korea, according to Fox News.

He was charged with stealing a propaganda banner, and during his trial, Warmbier said:

“I beg that you see how I am only human. And how I have made the biggest mistake of my life.”

His tearful testimony and pleas for mercy were to no avail. After a one-hour trial, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for “crimes against the state”:

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According to the host of Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” Warmbier’s parents have not heard from their son since he was detained over a year ago.

During an interview with Carlson, Cindy and Fred Warmbier discussed their experience and disillusionment with the United States government. Otto’s father described how the concerned parents initially found out that the strict, communist state was detaining their son:

“Otto left on his trip, and we knew he was in North Korea. Then, of course, a mother figures these things out, and she says, ‘He hasn’t called me. He should be in China now.’ We do the 24-hour wait, and then the State Department calls, and they ask us, ‘Does Otto take medicine?’ They don’t say anything about detainment, and then we bring it up, and they say, ‘Well, yeah he’s being detained in North Korea.'”

While Fred agreed with Carlson that the “assumption for most Americans” is that if a U.S. citizen is in trouble, “someone will help you,” he claimed that’s not what his family’s found. He said:

“I would have hoped somebody other than the desk person … I would have hoped at this point, somebody would have reached out and maybe given us some reassurances but that doesn’t happen in our world.”

Otto’s father cited the “Freedom of Information Act,” and their son’s lack of a waiver, as the reasons the United States gave for not providing them details. He chalked it up to “protocol,” to which Carlson said:

“That’s a heartless protocol. To speak to parents that way.”

While the Warmbiers met with former Secretary of State John Kerry, who seemed “overwhelmed with North Korea,” the family’s contact person at the department constantly tells them, “I’m at the lowest level.”

When pressed by Carlson as to whether “anyone in the State Department,” helped them, Cindy shook her head, and Fred said:

“No. No, absolutely not.”

On behalf of the couple, Fred repeatedly took some of the fault because they allowed their son to travel to North Korea in the first place. However, they seemed to disagree with the government laying all the blame at their feet. As Cindy told Carlson:

“I’m so shocked. The first thing after that phone call was, ‘Did you read the state department blog on North Korea before you let him go?’ … They acted like we were ignorant basically for letting him go.”

President Donald Trump’s administration has not yet contacted them, but the parents still hold out hope that Trump will be able to secure their son’s release.

Fred also hopes to work with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “bring Otto home.” Although it may be “disrespectful to ask,” he had a message for the president: “President Trump, I ask you, bring my son home, you can make a difference here.”

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