A federal judge ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million on Monday in a wrongful death suit filed by the parents of Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died shortly after being released from that country.
U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington ruled that North Korea should pay damages to Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the parents of the University of Virginia student.
Warmbier was a University of Virginia student who was visiting North Korea with a tour group when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in March 2016 on suspicion of stealing a propaganda poster.
He died in June 2017, shortly after he returned to the U.S. in a coma and showing apparent signs of torture while in custody.
The judgment is largely a symbolic victory for now, since there is no mechanism to force North Korea to pay.
“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,” Judge Howell wrote.
“Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un. Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son’s life.
This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family,” said Fred Warmbier in a statement after the lawsuit was initially filed.
North Korea did not send representatives to argue their case in the Washington, DC, courthouse throughout the duration of the case and it isn’t clear whether the country has any intention to comply with the judge’s order.