UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The father of American college student Otto Warmbier who died soon after being sent home from North Korea in a vegetative state said Friday that Kim Jong Un should be called “criminal Kim” — not “chairman Kim” which “makes me sick.”
Fred Warmbier told a U.N. symposium promoting international cooperation on abductions that calling the North Korean leader “chairman” gives him status on the world stage, and “if we’re afraid to tell the truth of who we’re dealing with we don’t stand a chance of making a difference.”
“He’s a criminal and he’s a murderer,” Warmbier said. “Every member of Kim’s regime is a thug.”
He said the truth is that North Korea’s leader is telling his people that they have to limit rations to 300 grams per day — the equivalent of five slices of white bread — “at the same time he’s begging for food from the (U.N.) World Food Program.”
Warmbier said the Dutch government in February seized 90,000 bottles of vodka heading to Pyongyang — a violation of U.N. sanctions — at the same time “he is systematically starving the people of North Korea.”
Warmbier urged the world’s nations not “to coddle” Kim but “to stand up to North Korea.”
“It doesn’t mean we can’t engage them,” Warmbier stressed. “It doesn’t mean there can’t be dialogue. But when we treat them for who they are then we’ll be able to make a difference here. But until we do that, this is going to be a continued repeat.”
Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student from suburban Cincinnati, was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in early 2016 for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster. His parents say he was tortured and he died days after being returned in a vegetative state in June 2017.
During the meeting, relatives of abductees from Japan, Thailand and the U.S. whose loved ones are believed to be held in North Korea pleaded for their return.
The brother of American student David Sneddon, who is from Utah and disappeared in China in 2004, said the family has collected evidence that he was abducted to North Korea.
James Sneddon said “David is a victim and abductee of North Korea’s callous, cruel and inhuman regime.”
“I want my brother released, and able to choose how he lives, independent and free,” James Sneddon said. “It’s time to release David. … It’s past time.”
Banjong Panchoi said his aunt, Anocha Panchoi who is from Thailand, was abducted by North Korean agents in Macao in 1978 and the family isn’t sure she’s still alive. But “our family still has hope that one day she will come back,” he said.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshide Suga, the minister in charge of the abduction issue, said as many “as 17 people have been officially recognized as abductees by the government of Japan” and “there are more than 800 people for whom the possibility of abduction by North Korea cannot be ruled out.”
Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, said in addition to Japanese and South Koreans taken by North Korea, there are at least 25 other foreign citizens from China, France, Guinea, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Macao, Netherlands, Romania, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the United States that been abducted.
“Our ultimate goal is the get the abductees back as soon as possible,” he said.