Otto Frederick Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia who has been detained in North Korea for the past two months, is accused of trying to steal a North Korean banner, containing a political slogan that was hanging from the walls of his Pyongyang hotel.
A North Korean official says the 21-year-old held a news conference “at his own request” Monday morning at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang. The event provided insight into the bizarre charges he is facing, including allegations that he was encouraged to commit the “hostile act” by a purported member of an Ohio church, a secretive university organization and even the CIA.
In a video supplied to CNN, North Korean guards escorted Warmbier into the room. He was not restrained and was wearing dark trousers, a light-colored blazer, shirt and tie. Appearing to read from a statement, Warmbier said: “I committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel.”
Warmbier is also seen in the video sobbing and pleading for forgiveness, and bowing deeply to apologize, and stating, “I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country. I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!”
Warmbier, a third-year business major at the University of Virginia, originally was detained on January 2 as he was about to board a plane and leave the country, according to Young Pioneer Tours, the China-based travel company that organized his trip.