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Otto Warmbier's Parents Sue North Korea for Wrongful Death

otto warmbier funeral in ohio

WASHINGTON -- The family of a 22-year-old University of Virginia student held hostage by North Korea and returned to the United States just days before he passed away has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kim Jong-un's regime for his brutal torture and murder.

Otto Warmbier, who visited the communist regime as part of a tour group, was seized by North Korean officials on Jan. 2, 2016, before his flight was supposed to take off from Pyongyang. He was paraded before cameras the next month for a tearful "confession," admitting he took down a banner that was hanging in the hall of his hotel. "I made the worst mistake of my life," he said.

North Korea claimed the student took the poster as a "hostile act" to disturb DPRK unity at the behest of the CIA, a college group and a church in his home state of Ohio. He was sentenced in March 2016 to 15 years of hard labor and reportedly fell into a coma shortly after his sentence began.

"Otto was taken hostage, kept as a prisoner for political purposes, used as a pawn and singled out for exceptionally harsh and brutal treatment by Kim Jong-un," his parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, said in a statement today. "Kim and his regime have portrayed themselves as innocent, while they intentionally destroyed our son's life. This lawsuit is another step in holding North Korea accountable for its barbaric treatment of Otto and our family."

The lawsuit comes as President Trump intends to talk denuclearization with Kim. It also comes as three Americans are still held hostage by North Korea.

Kim Dong Chul, a businessman and naturalized U.S. citizen who previously lived in Fairfax, Va., was arrested in North Korea's special economic zone in October 2015 and accused of spying for the South Koreans, which Seoul denied. In a forced confession, Kim said he was guilty of espionage and spreading Christianity. Kim, 64, was sentenced to 10 years of hard labor.

Tony Kim, also known as Kim Sang-duk, 59, was a professor at China's Yanbian University of Science and Technology who had been visiting to teach at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, the only private college in the country with a sizable foreign staff, for a period of several weeks. Kim had also been a humanitarian aid worker in North Korea and helped deliver critical foreign aid to regions devastated by 2016 floods. He and his wife were arrested in April as they tried to fly out of the country; she was released while he was detained and accused of committing hostile acts.

Kim Hak-Song, 55, was working in agricultural development at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, managing experimental research to address the country's food shortage. He was arrested in May. Like Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim and former hostage Kenneth Bae, Kim Hak-Song is a Christian.