Originally posted by sonhouse
The only thing I would contest was the severity of the punishment.
I understand why Americans believe that Otto Warmbier's sentence was too harsh.
Many families of foreigners who have been convicted and sentenced in the USA believe
that their punishments were excessive, harsher than what they would have received at home.
My question is, "Was his sentence harsher than would have been given to an ordinary North Korean?"
I don't know. It seems to me that, after being sentenced, Otto Warmbier would have been
treated better than ordinary North Korean prisoners because the DPRK regarded his life
as more valuable. If an ordinary North Korean prisoner had fallen into a coma, he or she
presumably would have been allowed to die quickly rather than be kept alive for many months.
Many privileged affluent white Americans like to act as though they must deserve much
better treatment than most natives in the poor non-Western societies that they visit.
His father, for instance, condemned the DPRK for allegedly not giving Otto Warmbier
'top notch' medical care. I don't know if his medical care in the DPRK was good as the
best care that would have been available for the wealthy in the USA. But I disagree
with the presumption that an affluent white American deserves better medical care in
the DPRK than what an ordinary North Korean would have received.
Here's what I suspect probably happened.
1) North Koreans noticed that a propaganda poster is missing from a Pyongyang hotel
floor, which foreign guests are forbidden to visit.
2) They reviewed security camera video in attempting to identify a suspect (a tall Westerner).
3) They may have searched Otto Warmbier's room and found the poster there.
4) The local North Korean authorities may not have arrested Otto Warmbier immediately
because they knew that it would create an 'international incident'. So they asked for orders
from the top. It took time for this to filter up to a high decision-making level. But Otto
Warmbier was scheduled to leave the DPRK soon. So the decision was made to arrest him.
Assuming the poster was found among his possessions, it's hard to deny Otto Warmbier's guilt.
Regarding his sentence of fifteen years, I don't recall any US citizen who has spent that
much time in DPRK prisons. What likely would have happened is that the DPRK and USA
would have reached a deal (probably in a few years at most) resulting in Otto Warmbier's release.
The other US citizens now detained in the DPRK are of Korean heritage, if not Korean immigrants.
I suspect that Otto Warmbier found it harder to adjust from his privileged American lifestyle
to the harsh realities of life in the DPRK. The shock might have been too much for him to bear.
He might have had a heart attack, resulting in blood not flowing properly to his brain.
For whatever it's worth, during the Korean War, the Communists held their UN prisoners
under similar conditions. They did not single out the Americans for harsher treatment.
But the Americans had the highest death rate of all nationalities of POWs in the DPRK.
The British death rate was significantly lower. The South Korean death rate was even lower.
And the Turkish death rate was the lowest. Reportedly, not even one Turkish POW died.
In _This Kind of War_, the right-wing (fiercely anti-Communist) American historian T.R. Fehrenbach
wrote that 'chemistry and culture' was responsible for the high death rate of American POWs.
The Americans received the same rations as the Turks (who tended to be tough peasants).
But many 'spoiled' Americans refused to eat the less palatable food given in the POW camps.
T.R. Fehrenbach's conclusion was that many American POWs died because they had
become 'too soft', not determined enough to survive and to help one another survive.
He noted that American POWs had a dominant culture of 'every man for himself', with
stronger Americans often refusing to do anything to help weaker Americans, even stealing
their food. In contrast, the Turks maintained perfect discipline. Whenever a Turk fell ill,
other Turks were assigned to take care of him. Whenever a Turk seemed too weakened,
he would be given extra food from other Turks. If any Turk dared to disobey orders or to
break his group's solidarity, he would be severely beaten.
American POWs: A culture of 'every man for himself', where selfishness dominated.
Turkish POWs: A culture of every man must be responsible for everyone else's survival.
The Americans had the highest death rate; the Turks had a perfect record of survival.