What Happens When You Steal From A North Korean Hotel

Filed Under: Hotels, Media

A 21 year old University of Virginia student has been detained in North Korea for nearly two months, after planning a trip there over New Years. He finally held a news conference on Monday morning “at his own request,” so he could apologize for “the worst mistake of [his] life” and say how he has been “very impressed by the Korean government’s humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like [himself] and of their very fair and square legal procedures in the DPR Korea.”

Yeah, that definitely sounds like something he said at his own request…

So, what was his crime? Per CNN:

Warmbier is accused of trying to steal a North Korean banner, containing a political slogan that was hanging from the walls of his Pyongyang hotel.

A North Korean official with direct knowledge of Warmbier’s case says the 21-year-old held a news conference “at his own request” Monday morning at the People’s Palace of Culture in Pyongyang.

The event provided insight into the bizarre charges he is facing in the secretive Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, including allegations that he was encouraged to commit the “hostile act” by a purported member of an Ohio church, a secretive university organization and even the CIA.

So yeah, he tried to steal a banner from his hotel, probably thinking it would look cool in his dorm room… and not on behalf of the CIA. Admittedly what he did was a really dumb thing to do in a country like North Korea, but still.

Here’s the news conference in which he apologizes:

Let’s hope he gets released soon and doesn’t face the “typical” North Korean punishment. At least he’ll be able to enjoy the world’s best airport terminal, which North Korea opened last year…

(Tip of the hat to Kalil)

  1. How stupid could you be to do that in North Korea! On another note I would love to go there for a visit.

  2. Let’s hope the Most Glorious People’s Leader (aka The Onion’s “Sexiest Man Alive”) is in a benevolent mood and finds it within his heart to forgive this foolish student and possible foreign spy! Maybe he would also be willing to have Lucky sample Air Koryo’s business class hard product. I can’t wait to read the review.

  3. This guy deserves to get life in prison in North Korea. Not for stealing the banner but for his level of stupidity.

  4. I wouldn’t be surprised if his actual conduct that prompted the arrest was some sort of evangelical/proselytizing behavior and the banner thing is just made up by the DPRK officials. That’s been the case for the majority of westerners detained in DPRK over the past couple decades.

  5. What a dumb moron he’s the type of person to go into the jungles and try to take selfies with unfriendly natives thinking its all fun and games till they split him open.

  6. Yes, I’m not sure what the truth really is in this situation. Was this guy really so stupid as to try and steal a banner from hotel, or is this just something the North Korean officials coerced him to say at the press conference?

  7. Ben L is probably right, it’s been shown that prior detained westerns of the DPRK have had stuff made up about them. It could have been something as simple as not bowing to the picture of the dear leader. Combine that with the political leverage the DPRK gets out of it and you’ve got a story. All in all, I’m not convinced he committed this “crime”.

  8. He deserves every bit of torture he surely received, how someone could be stupid enough to visit that shitty regime country?, I will never understand first world people! Like the ones who visit Cuba..
    I would NEVER EVER give a penny to these regimes economy as long as the dictators-murderers are still opressing their people. (and I know some like to play dumb: ‘we are helping the people visiting Cuba’.. NO, you already know that all the real money goes to the dictators pockets to keep the regime alive!).

    Normal people risking their lives to get a better life in the first world… and the ‘ingenuity’ of the first world people that seems like they are dying to know how shitty can life be outside their countries.. Jezz!!

  9. Hope they leave him the banner, so he can always remember the experiencie, hanging besides his Che Guevara T-Shirt.. In the safety and comfort of his US home…

  10. Matt D and Eric. Both nailed it, nice to read some common sense and true idea how life works in the third world and hose regimes.

  11. Jeez, people! Let’s not take the North’s word on what happened. Not saying it’s his brightest move to go there, but he’s a puppet in a much larger conflict. Cut him some slack instead of repeating the DPRK’s lies.

  12. Also, saying (as Santastico and BBK are) that Warmbier deserves life imprisonment and/or torture is psycopathic.

  13. @BBK…. You feel deeply for the oppressed people?

    Yet you state in your opening sentence a young visitor “deserves every bit of torture he surely received” for a minor offense.

    Wow! What a pleasant balanced person you must be. Wait… Or maybe an angry narcissistic sociopath.

  14. I think most of the negative feelings posted by the people here are just frustrations and feelings of powerlessness. They feel like eunuchs unable to stop this north korean clown from doing nasty things. They cope with their un manliness by trying to score a flight upgrade instead and write nasty comments here. They need our support and therapy.


  15. Its a Show Trial for sure, and he probably didn’t actually do anything wrong. They are just using him for their typical anti-Western propaganda.

    But the worst mistake of his life was to go to that psychopathically murderous country in the first place. “Dear Leader” (sic) executes his own family members and top government officials on a mere whim, and he thought he was going to be fine there?

  16. What a difference compared country to country. When I was in college there was a new building under construction on campus. Some neighbor girls took a huge Do Not Enter sign from the construction site and had it in their dorm room. The RA saw it and told them to return it or they’d be turned in. They took it to the campus police and said they were told to bring this back to which the campus police told them they could come and collect it when the semester was over.

    It’s hard to believe the story from the govt, who knows what really happened. Either way this kid should be glad if he’s ever released from the country…

  17. “Yeah, that definitely sounds like something he said at his own request…”

    I disagree. He probably did say that at his own request. After all, he was dumb enough to go to North Korea. Dumbass.

  18. @Ben L. Less or more psycopathic than going inside the dragon’s lair voluntarily?

    @Andy and Credit Yes, of course I’m imbalaced and have all the anger against this kind of regimes..
    Probably a world of difference between you (Assuming you are 1st. world keyboard warriors)
    I’ve lost a great friend in the battle against the regime opressing my country, another friend lost hir girl shot in the head in the same protests, I’ve taken police (regime troops) beating, being incarcerated and swallowed more tear gas than both of you probably will in all your life.

    So forgive if I’m imbalaced when I write lines agains that kind of POS regimes.

  19. I think it is because he didn’t have elite status.

    Seriously, hope this kid gets home safe.

  20. @BBK Definitely more, given that you’re complaining about inhumane regimes while simultaneously applauding the potential torture of this guy by an inhumane regime

  21. If you go to North Korea, you’re playing with fire, given their tendency to pull crap like this. And if you play with fire, you might get burned. I hope the kid gets out of this, but I don’t have much sympathy for him. He’s a dumbass.

  22. For what I consider a fun, hardcore, traveler website. Theres some real type a, angry assholes posting. Enough said I suppose. Probably not, but Im just surprised. Kid fucked up a bit. Bad but understandable souvenier choice fo sho. Lighten up you hyper self rightous, self important, lack of poise dicks. i cant even believe you travel outside Costa Rica. Get back to home before you miss another Dave Matthews show. Lighten up.

  23. When I was in North Korea, at the hotel in Pyongyang I bought some items from the store and they didn’t had any change — so they gave me a lighter instead.

    I didn’t need it so I left it on the table in the room.

    When I returned to the same hotel a week later on our way back, I got exactly the same room and the lighter was still there.

  24. He should have just told the hotel staff that his pet giraffe ate it because his Hyatt Diamond status was not being recognized…

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