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North Korea returns US court document on damages for Warmbiers: report

A written judgment from a US court ordering North Korea to pay compensation to the family of Otto Warmbier came back a second time from the North’s Foreign Ministry, a US media outlet said Thursday.

A Washington court posted a scanned copy of the written judgment on its online records system and explained that the document it sent to North Korea had been returned due to a “delivery failure,” according to Voice of America.

The US District Court for the District of Columbia handed down a verdict in December ordering North Korea to pay $500 million in damages to the parents of Warmbier, an American college student who died last year shortly upon his return from North Korea, where he had been in custody. 

Otto Warmbier (Yonhap)
Otto Warmbier (Yonhap)

The correspondence, addressed to Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho, left Washington on Jan. 16 and reached Pyongyang on Jan. 28 via DHL courier service. But it was immediately returned after reaching the North’s Foreign Ministry, and came back marked “return to sender.” The document was then sent to Hong Kong, from where it was sent back to Pyongyang to be accepted by a ministry official named Kim Sung-won on Feb. 14.

The correspondence reportedly included the court’s written verdict and related documents translated into Korean.

About 10 days later, the North sent the document back to the United States again and it reached the Washington court in a new package on March 6 with no response.

Warmbier was in North Korea as a tourist when he was jailed in early 2015 and sentenced to hard labor after being convicted of stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel. He was held for 17 months before being returned home in a severely compromised state as a result of brain damage. He died six days later.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, filed a lawsuit against the North in October, seeking $1.05 billion in damages. The court ordered North Korea to compensate the Warmbiers for their son’s medical expenses and for their pain and suffering.

By Jo He-rim (