U.S. Court Decides to Release $ 20 m in North Korean Assets to Warmbier’s Family


Photo Credit: Google Images – Otto Warmbier

Sophia Jeon

The United States court has decided to release the information of about $ 20 million in
North Korean funding to the family of the American Otto Warmbier, who died in 2017 days
after being detained in North Korea and repatriated to his country in a coma.

On May 11 (local time), the District Court of Washington issued a “protective order” to
three banks, including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, and The Bank of New York Mellon,
which have funds related to North Korea.

Accordingly, the banks are required to disclose general information on North Korea-
related funds such as account numbers, owners, and addresses, as well as information on the
background of depositing funds.

The total amount of funds related to North Korea held by these banks has been reported to
be $ 29.79 million (about 29.1 billion in Korean won).The Warmbier family has been
tracking the assets of the local banks in the United States based on data from North Korea’s
assets, which was viewed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) since last year.

The banks demanded legal protection measures towards the North Korean data due to the
concern about the disclosure of their customer’s confidential information, and accordingly,
the Warmbier’s parents requested the “protective order” to the court.

In October of last year, the Warmbier’s parents filed a lawsuit against the North Korean
government for $ 1.1 billion in compensation for punitive damages and alimony. The U.S.
court then ruled against the compensation of $ 5311.3 million, but North Korea announced its
intention to refuse the payment.

According to report from Voice of America (VOA), the lawyer of Warmbier’s parents
said that when the North Korean government’s owned accounts and funds are recovered, the
money is not automatically deposited into the Warmbier family, and the procedures related to
the transfer of funds will have many considerations.

Otto Warmbier was arrested for stealing a national propaganda poster from a hotel while
visiting North Korea for tourism in 2016. He was released after 17 months of detention and
returned to the United States; however, he was already comatose when he was repatriated. He
died at the age of 22 few days after returning to the United States. His parents claimed he had
been tortured in North Korea, but Pyongyang repeatedly denied the charges.