U.Va. student arrested in North Korea for “anti-state” acts

Photo from LinkedIn, The Commonwealth Times
Photo from LinkedIn
Photo from LinkedIn, The Commonwealth Times
Third-year U.Va. student Otto Warmbier. Photo from LinkedIn

Third-year University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier was allegedly arrested in North Korea for “anti-state” acts on Jan. 2, which the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) announced on Jan. 22.

The KCNA said the “anti-state” were orchestrated by the U.S. government. Four days later, North Korea claimed they conducted a test on a nuclear weapon, which increased tension in the region.

According to KCNA, Warmbier was arrested after entering the country, “under the guise of tourist for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S government and under its manipulation.”

Warmbier had been in North Korea for five days over the new years holiday. He was entering the country with Young Pioneer Tours, a Chinese travel agency that specializes in trips inside the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).

Former U.Va. International Relations Organization President and fourth-year student Zuhayr Ahmed said the news of Warmbier’s arrest was shocking.

“From what I’ve gathered, people are really just confused as to how this happened and why he was in North Korea in the first place,” Ahmed said, “I knew two students who spent a summer writing a research paper in rural Zambia, but going to somewhere as dangerous as North Korea is unheard of.”

Ahmed said there are some activist groups and departments at the university advocating for better conditions in North Korea.

“A lot of the focus is also on rehabilitating people who flee the North for better opportunities elsewhere,” Ahmed said.

According to his now-deactivated Facebook profile, Warmbier is a member of the Theta Chi Fraternity and an Echos scholar at U.Va.

Theta Chi president Carter Levinson declined comment on the situation.

According to U.S. Department of State deputy spokesman Mark Toner, the U.S. government was aware of the situation.

“The welfare of U.S. citizens is one of the Department’s highest priorities,”  Toner said, “We have no further information to share due to privacy considerations.”

Sweden will act as mediators for negotiations for Warmbier’s release.

Staff Writer, Andrew Crider

Andrew Crider, photo by Brooke MarshAndrew is a junior economics major who has written for student newspapers since he was in high school. Andrew is interested in political history, aviation, photography and running. He has a tendency to refer to his peers, coworkers and bosses as “ma’am” or “sir,” but is getting better about referring to his friends at the CT by their first names instead. // Facebook

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