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Of Course Otto Warmbier's 'Confession' Was Coerced

Otto Warmbier's family and friends laid him to rest on Thursday, at a funeral in Ohio, after North Korea's Kim regime destroyed Otto's life and devastated his family.

Warmbier went to North Korea in late December, 2015, a 21-year-old American college student, on a short package tour. He was arrested there on Jan. 2, 2016, and accused of taking a propaganda sign off a wall in his Pyongyang hotel in the early hours of Jan. 1. On Feb. 29, 2016, Warmbier was presented publicly to deliver a forced "confession," and just over two weeks later, on March 16, 2016, again on camera, he was sentenced to 15 years at hard labor. It took more than a year before his family, or the American public, heard any further news of what had happened to him.

As we learned only this month, shortly after Warmbier received North Korea's hideous sentence he suffered brain damage so extensive that when North Korea finally released him early last week, at the demand of the Trump administration, he arrived home on June 13 to his family in Cincinnati in what his American doctors called a condition of "unresponsive wakefulness." He was unable to see, speak or make any sign of conscious response. By North Korea's much belated account, provided via U.S. envoys to Otto's parents early this month, Otto had been in that condition, in North Korean custody, for well over a year. Surrounded by his family, six days after his return, Otto died this past Monday.

This awful display of Pyongyang's raw and manifold official cruelties leaves a stricken family in Cincinnati mourning their horribly murdered son. It ought to drive home to all Americans the unrelenting monstrosity of North Korea's totalitarian Kim Jong Un regime.

Yet, there's a qualifier that keeps creeping into the U.S. press coverage of this story, a touch of ersatz journalistic due diligence,  which suggests that too many American reporters have yet to grasp the full extent of North Korea's totalitarian horrors. This qualifier, to which too many journalists seem wedded in mentioning Otto's "confession," is that they're not sure whether Otto was coerced.

To pick just one of many examples, in an NBC news article about Otto, published June 22, up pops that phrase: "it was not apparent whether his confession was coerced." Or, as NPR put it on Feb. 29, 2016,  immediately after North Korea first released Otto's "confession": "It's unclear whether Warmbier, 21, spoke of his own volition or whether he was pressured into making the statement."

Actually, there is nothing unclear about it. Isolated from family, friends or any form of genuine defense, held under terrible threat, in utterly hostile surroundings, Otto gave a forced confession. He was clearly coerced. As his father, Fred Warmbier, accurately told the press last week, Otto was "brutalized and terrorized" by the North Korean regime.