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Otto Warmbier’s Parents Give Scholarship to N.Korean Defector

Otto Warmbier’s Parents Give Scholarship to N.Korean Defector

Lee Seo-hyun

The parents of Otto Warmbier, an American student who was murdered by the North Korean regime, are giving a scholarship to a North Korean defector.

Fred Warmbier told Voice of America on Wednesday that the couple have awarded a scholarship in their son’s name to Lee Seo-hyun, a North Korean defector who is studying in the U.S. The parents expressed the hope that the scholarship will be a “strong message” to the North Korean regime.

Born in Ohio, Otto Warmbier visited North Korea as part of a tour group in December 2015 but was arrested and sentenced to prison on charges of trying to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel. He was tortured in prison and only returned to the U.S. in a coma and on the brink of death in June 2017, dying six days later.

Lee fled North Korea with her father, a senior official with the Workers Party who worked for Room 39, which looks after leader Kim Jong-un’s personal coffers. They settled in Washington and she studies at Columbia University Graduate School.

“I think the Otto Warmbier Scholarship means more to me than anything else because of the brutal Kim regime,” she told VOA. Warmbier’s parents [are] punishing North Korea and contributing to the bright future of North Korea, which is very encouraging and, above all, a strong message of hope.”

“The Warmbier parents’ decision will send a strong warning message that the continued barbaric behavior of the Kim regime will pay,” she added.

Lee has been criticizing the regime’s oppression and talking about the North’s human rights abuses on a YouTube channel that she started in 2020.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier attend a press conference in Seoul on Nov. 22, 2019.

Fred Warmbier told VOA that he met her at a lecture in Washington, D.C., and was greatly impressed by her passion for striving for freedom in North Korea since her defection, giving up the privileges of the North Korean elite. He also said he hopes “his son’s name and his legacy will be a stronger message to the North Korean regime.”

Cindy Warmbier said the couple do not want their son to be remembered as just a victim and that they want his legacy to be recalled much more than his death.

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