An American student held in North Korea since early January appeared on camera to confess for his “severe crimes” of attempting to steal propaganda from a Pyongyang hotel, according to the regime’s official state media.
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Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, was detained before boarding a flight to China and “was caught committing a hostile act against the state,” which government officials said was “tolerated and manipulated by the U.S. government,” according to KCNA, North Korea's state-run news agency.
The video was part of a government-arranged news conference that aired on state TV.
North Korea has a long history of detaining foreigners and has jailed U.S. citizens in the past. The U.S. State Department has warned against travel to the hermetic country.
In the video, Warmbier, 21, begged for forgiveness, saying, “I understand the severity of my crime and I have no idea what sort of penalty I may face but I am begging to the Korean people and government for my forgiveness.”
“On the early morning of Jan. 1, 2016, I committed my crime of taking out the important political slogan from the staff-only area of the Yanggakdo International hotel aimed at harming the work ethic and motivation of the Korean people,” Warmbier said in the video.
He added: “I have been very impressed by the Korean government’s humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself and of their very fair and square legal procedures in the DPR Korea.”
Warmbier’s family provided a statement shortly after the video was released to the Cavalier Daily, the UVA student-run newspaper, saying they have not heard from Warmbier since his arrest. "He seems to be in good health, although we won't know for sure about his condition until we have a chance to speak with him," the statement said.
Warmbier had entered North Korea as a tourist on a five-day New Year’s tour with a group of 20 and was delayed at immigration before being taken away by two airport officials, according to the tour operator that sponsored the trip.
The family said the State Department and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang have been working to try to secure Warmbier’s release and thanked them for their efforts.