North Korea : US student apologises for poster theft

Detained student put in front of the media confesses to taking political poster for a US church in return for a car.

    North Korea : US student apologises for poster theft
    No details of charges or the punishment Otto Warmbier, 21, faces were released [Kyodo/Reuters]

    A detained American student tearfully apologised for attempting to steal a political banner in North Korea from his hotel after being paraded in front of the media in Pyongyang.

    Otto Warmbier, 21, an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, was arrested in January for committing what North Korea called "an anti-state crime" with "the tacit connivance of the US government and under its manipulation".

    Warmbier said on Monday that he wanted the banner with a political slogan on it as a trophy for a church back home. He said that he was offered a second-hand car worth $10,000 and was told if he was arrested and did not return, $200,000 would be paid to his mother.

    READ MORE: Holiday in North Korea?

    Warmbier said that he accepted the offer because his family was "suffering from very severe financial difficulties".

    "I started to consider this as my only golden opportunity to earn money," he said, adding that if he ever mentioned the involvement of the church, "no payments would come."

    He said he was also encouraged by the "Z Society" at the University of Virginia, which he said he was trying to join. The magazine of the university's alumni association describes the Z Society as a "semi-secret ring society" founded in 1892 which conducts philanthropy, puts on honorary dinners, and grants academic awards.

    Charges and punishment

    No details of what kind of charges or punishment Warmbier faces were immediately released.

    In previous cases, people who have been arrested in North Korea and given a public confession often recant those admissions after their release.

    North Korea regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of sending spies to overthrow its government to enable the US-backed South Korean government to control the Korean peninsula.

    Warmbier was arrested while visiting the country with Young Pioneer Tours, an agency specialising in travel to the North, which is strongly discouraged by the US State Department.

    He had been staying at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, which is located on an island on a river that runs through Pyongyang.

     Tensions high as South Korea accuses Pyongyang of provocations



    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    'We scoured for days without sleeping, just clothes on our backs'

    The Philippines’ Typhoon Haiyan was the strongest storm ever to make landfall. Five years on, we revisit this story.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    Daughters of al-Shabab

    What draws Kenyan women to join al-Shabab and what challenges are they facing when they return to their communities?