Efforts are underway to help get an Ohio native out of a North Korean prison. Otto Warmbier, 21, from Wyoming, Ohio, is the second American that political activist and NBA agent David Sugarman is now trying to help free from North Korea. North Korea’s highest court sentenced Warmbier to 15 years hard labor after he confessed to trying to steal a propaganda banner.
Sugarman is credited with helping free Kenneth Bae from North Korean imprisonment back in 2014. Sugarman says when he was working to #BringBaeBack, he repeatedly made cold calls to the North Korean ambassador. He says those calls eventually developed into a relationship that aided in Bae’s release and return to the U.S. Sugarman says he’s already had two meetings with the North Korean ambassador about freeing Warmbier.
“Maybe because of who I am and my profession, I have contacts that may be what they’re looking for,” Sugarman said. “We spoke about Otto. They had mentioned to me that they would like me to get basketballs and sneakers and basketball stuff to the children and to the teams of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea).”
He says he’s not sure if he’ll be able to send those items to North Korea because of U.S. sanctions, but he plans on asking the State Department if it can be allowed.
“I believe that God’s given me the ability, the relationships to help for whatever reason. Now, it’s Otto in the DPRK and it’s important to help an American,” Sugarman said. “I can’t determine what the North Koreans are going to do… I have no idea. All I know is I will fight and I will fight until Otto Warmbier is home.”
He’s started a hashtag campaign on Twitter called #WeWantWarmbier.