An American tourist was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor by a North Korean court on Wednesday. Weeks ago, the North Korean media reported that the tourist had stolen a propaganda banner and was immediately arrested.
Otto Warmbier, an undergraduate from the University of Virginia, was convicted and sentenced in a one-hour trial in front of the Supreme Court of North Korea. The U.S. government has already spoken out to condemn the conviction and accuse North Korea of using Warmbier as a political pawn.
North Korea frequently accuses the U.S. and South Korea of sending spies over to try to overthrow the North Korean government, and their accusations against Warmbier were no exception.
Warmbier had previously admitted that he attempted to steal the propaganda banner as a gift for a friend who wanted to hang it in a church.
Although U.S. tourism to North Korea is legal, U.S. officials strongly advise against visiting the country because of its instability and tense relationship with the U.S. government right now.
Commentary: It is unfortunate and absolutely unjust that Warmbier received such a harsh sentence for a minor crime, however is it really unexpected? North Korea has never been an ally to the United States, and has certainly never exhibited any qualities to prove that it has a rational government or justice system. It’s difficult to be sympathetic towards someone who entered a country willingly and committed a crime, knowing that the country convicts and sentences foreign visitors on a regular basis.
It’s time for Americans to wake up and realize that not every country has the same laws and justice system that we do. Not every country will allow you a fair trial, or even the right to consult with an attorney. If these young people insist on exploring the world, then act appropriately and follow their laws or get what is given to you, but don’t come looking for sympathy.