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Judge orders North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier’s parents $501 million in damages, By Leo Byrne
North Korea “liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier”
A U.S. district court judge on Monday ordered North Korea to pay $501 million dollars in damages to Otto Warmbier’s parents as part of a lawsuit they filed against the DPRK earlier this year. Otto Warmbier was held captive in North Korea for 17-months after being charged with attempting to steal a propaganda poster. He was returned to the U.S. in June last year in a coma and died shortly after his arrival back in the United States. “The defendant Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (“North Korea”) shall be liable for damages in the amount of $501,134,683.80,” the court order reads.
Although North Korea is unlikely to pay the damages and did not send any representatives to defend the case, the Warmbiers said they pursued the lawsuit as they wanted “justice” for Otto’s death. In her reasoning behind the decision, Judge Beryl Howell criticized Warmbier’s trial in the DPRK and said North Korea was “liable for the torture, hostage taking, and extrajudicial killing of Otto Warmbier, and the injuries to his mother and father, Fred and Cindy Warmbier.”“North Korea never entered an appearance in, or defended against, this action, and the plaintiffs now move for default judgment for the damage caused by North Korea to Otto and his parents,” Howell said in comments carried by Law and Crime.
Howell added that Warmbier’s testimony in North Korea appeared to be staged and that he had been forced to memorize the words. The judge added that there were numerous factual problems with his testimony. “Examples of the many untruths in the purported “confession” include: (1) Otto called his father’s company “Finishing Cincinnati Black Oxide,” but that company, in fact, is called “Finishing Technology”; (2) Otto said he practiced for his alleged crime by stealing street signs at the University of Virginia and storing the stolen signs under his bed, yet his father never found any such stolen signs,” the judge wrote.
“Otto said he conspired with the Friendship United Methodist Church, which had assets of $42 million, even though Otto had no relationship with that church, was not Methodist, and the church has no such extensive assets.”
When the Warmbiers filed the lawsuit in April, the White House said it was supportive of the action, though was added it was not involved with the case. North Korea denies torturing Warmbier and said his condition was due to his contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. “To make it clear once again, Warmbier was a criminal who was sentenced to reform through labor … However, we provided him with sincere medical care on humanitarian grounds in consideration of his failing health until he returned to the U.S.,” North Korea said in September last year.
A coroner for Hamilton County, Ohio, told media at the time that Warmbier’s brain had at some point been starved of oxygen, though they did not what the root cause of his condition was.
Rodong accuses the U.S. of “fabricating” UN resolution to strengthen sanctions, By Dagyum Ji
Seoul also criticized for “tarnishing atmosphere” of improving ties by raising human rights issue
North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun on Tuesday denounced Washington for “fabricating” the UN human rights resolution with the “wicked intention” of strengthening sanctions and pressure. The report comes following a string of articles released in DPRK state media since last Friday ratcheting up the rhetoric against both the U.S. and South Korea and warning of consequences, in response to the recent adoption of a UN resolution condemning the North Korean human rights situation.
The Rodong Sinmun, an organ of the ruling Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK), on Tuesday criticized the U.S. for “fabricating” the resolution, which was passed during a plenary session of the UN General Assembly on December 17. “This is a serious political provocation against the dignified DPRK,” the Rodong said in a commentary. “And it is a vicious move to tarnish the DPRK international image, which can never be condoned.”
In the Korean-language editorial, the DPRK’s most widely-circulated newspaper said the U.S. State Department “clamored that it ‘should put sustained pressure on North Korea’ for ‘the improvement of human rights’” by issuing the statement before the passage of the resolution.
Though the Rodong did not provide any further details, the statement is likely to refer to remarks carried by Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino on the U.S. designation on three high-ranking North Korean officials on December 10.
Palladino said Washington “remains resolved to press North Korean government to respect human rights” during a regular briefing held on December 11. But the Rodong on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to “stop provocative and malicious behavior” against Pyongyang. “It is the trite method used by the U.S. that arbitrarily fabricates the human rights situation of the country which irritates Washington and misleads public opinion,” the Rodong said in the commentary. “The wicked intention of the U.S. and its followers in obstinately clamoring about the non-existent ‘human rights issue’ of the DPRK is done to broaden the scope of sanctions and pressure and to strengthen them.”
The Rodong also denounced Seoul, continuing that Pyongyang could not overlook that the South Korean government was engaged in Washington’s “anti-DPRK racket of slandering the human rights situation.” “The South Korean authorities’ act of chiming in and involving in the impure act of plotting to do harm to the DPRK is the thoughtless and shameful behavior that would tarnish the atmosphere of the improving inter-Korean relations…,” the newspaper read.
The Rodong continued that such behavior “incites the rash act of the U.S. and its followers aiming to make confrontation against the DPRK.”
Other North Korean state media outlets Uriminzokkiri and Arirang-Meari on Tuesday also respectively carried an editorial denouncing Washington of “fabricating” the UN resolution on human rights and naming 10 “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPCs) for severe violations of religious freedom including the North.
The outer-track outlet Uriminzokkiri called on the U.S. to “cultivate the habit to see the world in the right perspective and behave with discernment” in order to “avoid a bleak future.” Uriminzokkiri particularly said the U.S. and its followers “must pay a dear price for provocative and malicious behaviors against the dignified DPRK.”
North Korean online media Arirang-Meari and DPRK Today respectively on Sunday and Monday also used the same rhetoric in warning of the “dear price” to be paid.
North Korean state newspaper Rodong Sinmun drops free PDF distribution, By Colin Zwirko
Downloads through Japanese affiliate still available, however
The website of North Korea’s primary state-run newspaper Rodong Sinmun ceased offering a downloadable PDF version of its daily newspaper late on Sunday. Previously free to view page-by-page through a button on the Rodong’s homepage, the option was gone by Monday morning, following NK News confirmation of the Sunday edition’s availability early on December 23.
Article text is still being uploaded to the Rodong website as of December 25, however, and state broadcaster Korea Central Television (KCTV) still carried its customary walkthrough of the Monday edition to round out the day’s 5pm daily news. But this is not the first change Rodong has made to its PDF distribution service, as smaller files with lower resolution and sometimes blurry text began to replace higher quality images uploaded to the site in early February 2016.
Those still seeking higher-resolution PDF files for the country’s mainstay newspaper will now have to look elsewhere, with one remaining option being to apply for membership of a subscription service operated by North Korean media partners in Japan. One affiliate of the Rodong and state outlet Korea Central News Agency (KCNA), the Tokyo-based “Korea Media,” offers members “real-time” access to over a dozen North Korean newspapers and other publications, including daily PDF files of the Rodong Sinmun. Korea Media’s homepage, now merely an “under renewal” landing page, described its operation as recently as April 2018 as one made in partnership with North Korean media organizations, created to “introduce and sell various books, newspapers, magazines, photos and videos to the world.”
While a page explaining the service on another Korea Media site, “KPM,” currently says the service is free to institutions who sign contracts with the organization, it also explains that payment is necessary for media companies wishing to redistribute any content offered through the service. Current pricing for article redistribution is not listed, but the price for reprinting images ranges from USD$60 to $200.
NK News sister-site KCNA Watch previously redistributed PDFs from the Rodong website for free, allowing users to download the PDFs without accessing North Korea’s official newspaper website, which is often offline or slow to use. The Rodong decision to take down the freely-available PDF could, therefore, be seen as an effort to take more control over where and how readers obtain high-quality versions of the Rodong newspaper.
But as North Korea continues to feel the pressure from ongoing efforts by the U.S. to press UN member states for strict sanctions enforcement, the move could also be seen as a way to earn money for media content produced by the state and already widely consumed by an international audience.
Korea Media, on a previous version of its site, named their Director Lee Sang Ho (李相鎬 in Japanese), and listed their bank as Mitsubishi Tokyo UFJ Bank. The organization moved its offices to Shinjuku in downtown Tokyo in June 2015, the site also says, having previously been located in the nearby Hakusan district within the offices of the [North] Korea Publishing House (조선출판회관). Korea Media first started offering Rodong PDF files of the Rodong Sinmun online in November 2011.
Chinese brand-promotion group wraps up week-long Pyongyang business trip, By Colin Zwirko
Investment seminar, B2B meetings, and site inspections on itinerary for group of business leaders
Over a dozen Chinese business people wrapped up a week-long trip to Pyongyang Sunday as part of the Global Promotion Project of National Brands, according to a report from one of the project’s co-developers, the Beijing Private Economic Development Association (BPEDA).
The group was scheduled to tour potential investment sites in Pyongyang and Wonsan, hold a “China-DPRK Investment Seminar,” and hold “face-to-face business meetings with [North Korean] company partners,” a pre-trip BPEDA itinerary said. Photos posted Monday to Chinese social media site Weibo show the group at the Koryo Hotel, the Pyongyang Sci-Tech Complex, and various tourist sites. Individuals identified in pictures and by BPEDA news articles on the trip include the organization’s Secretary General Zheng Yongge and Vice Presidents Yang Xiyun and Song Xianliang.
But BPEDA members who also serve as leaders of various businesses were also part of the delegation, including cosmetics brand Ejiasu chairwoman Lai Meifang. The BPEDA said the group was invited to Pyongyang by the National Science and Technology Commission of the DPRK, and arrived in Pyongyang having traveled by train from Dandong on December 18.
An announcement posted in November to the organization’s website – describing the upcoming trip and inviting interested parties to apply to join the tour – credited Kim Jong Un’s three trips to China in 2018 with setting the stage for increased economic cooperation.
It characterized the delegation as a response to DPRK “government reform” plans, saying it was organized “in order to promote in-depth economic and cultural exchanges and extensive cooperation between China and the DPRK.”
“The delegation will bring the DPRK people advanced domestic technology, national brands, and high-quality products,” the BPEDA statement read.
During the delegation’s trip, it said, “nearly 100 figures from all walks of life, such as DPRK leaders, ministry leaders, local government officials, and major associations, will be gathered together to discuss friendship and cooperation … [over] infrastructure, commercial real estate, park development, food, agriculture, trade, manufacturing, and other projects.”