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North Korea turns down $500M lawsuit for Otto Warmbier

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea turns down $500M lawsuit for Otto Warmbier
Cindy and Fred Warmbier have filed a lawsuit against North Korea for the 2017 death of their son Otto Warmbier. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 29 (UPI) -- North Korea has returned a $500 million lawsuit that was delivered to Pyongyang's foreign ministry, following a U.S. court order to pay damages to the family of Otto Warmbier, who died shortly after being released from North Korean custody in 2017.

Records obtained by Voice of America show DHL, the international postal service, attempted to deliver the letter to the foreign ministry at 10:20 a.m. on Monday.

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The letter is shown to have been "returned to shipper" immediately after it had reached its destination.

The mail took about two weeks to reach North Korea from the United States, and was sent from Washington, D.C., on Jan, 16, with stopovers at facilities in Baltimore, Ohio and Hong Kong, before reaching the North Korean capital.

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The lawsuit was addressed to North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho. The contents included a U.S. federal judge's statement and a translation in Korean of all documents, according to VOA.

The Warmbiers began to take legal action in April 2018. After eight months, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell issued a default judgment on Dec. 24, ordering North Korea to pay $450 million in punitive damages to the estate of Warmbier and his parents. The remaining $50 million was to cover "pain and suffering," economic losses and medical costs.

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Fred Warmbier has said his son was treated like a security threat in North Korea, and repudiated North Korea claims his son was plotting to steal North Korea propaganda with his friends at a Cincinnati restaurant on Sept. 23, 2015.

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Otto Warmbier was arrested in Pyongyang in January 2016. The former U.S. captive had fallen into a coma by 2017, and North Korea claimed Otto Warmbier had contracted botulism, a claim U.S. physicians have challenged.

North Korea is ignoring the Warmbier case and denying responsibility for the student's death at a time it is encouraging the Trump administration to continue engagement.

Han Dae Song, the North Korean ambassador to Geneva, said bilateral relations with the United States will develop only if Washington responds to North Korean efforts through "credible measures and concrete actions."

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The United States must attempt to build trust, the North Korean envoy said, according to Yonhap.

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