How The University Of Virginia Has Responded To Otto Warmbier's Arrest & Hard Labor Sentence

One 21-year-old college student's status as a University of Virginia undergrad has been an identifying factor used again and again in headlines as media coverage has delved into the sentencing of Otto Warmbier for a "prank" he played while in North Korea. But has the University of Virginia responded to Otto Warmbier's sentencing? In North Korea for a trip with Young Pioneer Tours, Warmbier's visit came to an abrupt end on Jan. 2 when he was taken into custody at Pyongyang Sunan International Airport. Roughly two and a half months later Warmbier would be sentenced to 15 years in a North Korean hard labor camp following a one-hour trial in front of the nation's Supreme Court.

Warmbier was charged with committing the "hostile act" of attempting to steal a DPRK political propaganda poster from his hotel at the urging of the C.I.A., the Friendship United Methodist Church, and the Z Society, a secret philanthropic organization founded at the University of Virginia. Yet Warmbier's crime sounds more a college-style prank gone wrong than an attempt at "bringing down the foundation of [North Korea's] single-minded unity," as the New York Times reported state news media suggested.

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The charges and subsequent sentencing have evoked strong condemnations from the White House, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, and multiple human rights activists. Despite the national attention, Warmbier's university has remained tight-lipped on the matter.

University spokesperson Anthony de Bruyn told the Cavalier Daily the day Warmbier's sentencing was announced that the university had no additional comment. "The University is aware of the recent media reports regarding Otto Warmbier and remains in touch with his family," the college paper reported de Bruyn said in an email statement nearly identical to one they made in late February after Warmbier's arrest was made public.

Warmbier was a member of the university's Theta Chi fraternity chapter, which had only a little more to say on the matter of their member's arrest. "The UVA student held in North Korea is our brother. We hope for the safe return of our brother, Otto Warmbier," the fraternity said in the latest issue of its newsletter Xi Lights, which was published online Friday.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Warmbier had been pursuing his bachelor's degree at the University of Virginia since 2013, majoring in Economics with a minor in Global Sustainability.