Why Did Warmbier Go To North Korea

On January 1st, 2016 Oliva Warmbier, a 21 year old American student, arrived in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, on a five day trip. He had been promised a package tour of the country, with the aim of giving the student an insight into North Korea’s culture and society. It was an excursion that would end up lasting far longer than the two weeks Warmbier had planned.

Sadly, Warmbier tragically lost his life during his prolonged stay in the reclusive East Asian country – a loss that has left the world scratching its head in confusion, asking why the student chose to travel to North Korea in the first place.

According to reliable sources, Warmbier’s trip was organized by a company called Young Pioneer Tours, which specializes in travels to ‘unusual destinations’. Although not hugely uncommon, this type of trip is not without its risks, and for many cases requires permission from the U.S. Treasury department before it can go ahead. It’s not clear if this permission was granted prior to the trip or not.

The three potential reasons for Warmbier’s decision to take the trip are all fairly common motivators: adventure seeking, political engagement, and rebellion. All of these were valid possibilities, as Warmbier was described as an adventurous young man by his closest family and friends, and had always expressed interest in world affairs.

According to his own social media accounts, he was an avid fan of the revolutions of the Arab Spring that occurred between 2011 and 2013 – rebellions which sparked of a desire for freedom and democracy in many young people. Thus, it can be assumed that his trip to North Korea was itself a manifestation of this desire to defy the status-quo, to go against the grain, and to discover and experience something completely new.

Indeed, it appears that Warmbier was aware of the risks associated with such a trip, but was not willing to be deterred or frightened into inaction. “I’m really nervous about it because I’m quite a risk-averse person”, he said on his first day in North Korea. He may have even had an inkling of what would eventually befall him: “Some really bad things can happen…” he added.

It is impossible to know for certain what Warmbier’s true intention for traveling to North Korea was, but whatever the reason, his story serves as a reminder of the potential dangers that lie in wait for the unwary traveler.

The Aftermath of Warmbier’s Death

It was not until after Warmbier had returned home to the U.S. that it was revealed that he had been convicted and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor while in North Korean custody. He had been arrested on the airport departure lounge on his final day in the country, charged with crimes against North Korea. Subsequently, he had been held in captivity for over a year before eventually being sent home on June 13th, 2017, in an unconscious state.

The story of Warmbier’s death and detainment garnered significant media coverage across the world and was subsequently used as a source of leverage by the Trump administration during negotiations over sanctions laws between the U.S. and North Korea.

Warmbier’s death sent shockwaves throughout the international community, crystalizing a fear among many that travel to the country is just too dangerous and that tourists should avoid visiting entirely. This is a point of view that has been shared by and echoed by the leaders of other countries in relation to their own citizens, and continues to be a source of political tension between the U.S. and North Korea.

It might be said, then, that the death of Warmbier served as a stark warning to other would-be rebels, those who share his spirit of adventure and hunger for the unknown, and a reminder that the price of this may sometimes be too great for some people to bear.

The Political Consequences of Warmbier’s Death

The death of Warmbier has served as a rallying point for the Trump administration in its dealings with North Korea. It has proven to be a major factor in the administration’s strategy towards the reclusive state, and the US has since placed unprecedented sanctions on North Korea and its leadership.

The UN Security Council has also expressed profound concern at the death of Warmbier, which it described as “egregious”. The Council’s resolution was also notable for its urging of other countries to take action against North Korea over its human rights record – an action not taken since Warmbier’s death.

In addition to its apparent use as a bargaining chip in negotiations between the US and North Korea, the death of Warmbier has had the secondary – if equally important – effect of raising the issue of sanctions on North Korea in the international spotlight. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has been facing increasing international pressure for a number of actions, including his regime’s alleged involvement in the death of the American student.

The incident has also led to greater recognition of the need for political change in North Korea, as well as increased public awareness of the dangers of traveling there. This has prompted the governments of certain countries – including the U.S. and China – to issue travel advisories, warning citizens against travelling to North Korea.

Implications On Future Relations Between US And North Korea

The death of Warmbier has served to cement the seemingly irreparable relationship between the US and North Korea, and has effectively solidified the notion that the two countries are at odds. It has also served to illustrate the power of the US government in its dealings with the North Korean leadership, and has perhaps emboldened its resolve to “get tough” on the reclusive state.

It has also undoubtedly added fuel to the already intense rhetoric being tossed around by the US regarding its relations with North Korea, with the rhetoric becoming more strident and the language more combative than ever before. This has raised the likelihood of further armed conflict between the two countries, particularly if North Korea does not comply with international sanctions.

It is also worth noting that the International Community’s reaction to the death of Warmbier serves as a powerful reminder of how influential the US Government still is. Although its influence may be waning in certain areas of the world, in cases such as Warmbier’s all governments – even those in countries like North Korea – take notice of the US’s actions and powers of persuasion.

Conclusion: Is The Risk Worth It?

Overall, the death of Warmbier serves as a stark reminder of the risks associated with traveling to North Korea and sheds light on the complex risk-reward equation that so often comes into play when considering a trip abroad.

As such, it is important to understand that while travel to North Korea – and other reclusive countries – may be tempting, it is important to be aware of the unintended implications and potential consequences of such a journey before embarking on it. This is especially the case for people looking for a way to experience something outside of the normal course of everyday life.

Cassie Grissom is an American journalist and author living in Seoul, South Korea. She has been studying the Korean peninsula since 2011, and her work focuses on understanding human rights issues in North Korea. In addition to her work as an author, Cassie is an active advocate for human rights in North Korea. She regularly shares stories about life in North Korea with international audiences to raise awareness of the plight of its citizens.

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