WASHINGTON, DC (FOX19/CNN) - The mother of Otto Warmbier, the student who died after being held captive in North Korea, addressed her family’s tragedy during a seminar in Washington, D.C.
Warmbier, a native of Wyoming, Ohio and a University of Virginia student, was accused in January 2016 of trying to steal a propaganda banner while visiting the country.
He was imprisoned by the North Korean government and suffered severe brain damage, but there were no signs of physical trauma.
He was evacuated in a coma on June 13, 2017 and returned home to his family in Cincinnati.
The 22-year-old was taken straight from the airport to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he died six days later.
In 2017, a North Korean spokesman denied Otto Warmbier had been tortured while in custody.
Friday, Cindy Warmbier attended the Seminar on the North Korean Abductions Issue at the Hudson Institute in Washington D.C.
The Hudson Institute, the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea (HRNK), and the Government of Japan hosted the seminar that addressed the abduction of Japanese, South Korean, American and nationals of other countries by North Korea.
“North Korea to me is a cancer on the earth and if we ignore this cancer, it’s not going to go away. It’s going to kill all of us. We don’t even know we have this cancer so that’s why I talk,” Warmbier said.
She urged countries to keep the pressure on North Korea, saying that the dictatorial nation is not going to change.
Warmbier also expressed fear that the U.S. was going to let up on North Korea.
In addition, she addressed a report by the Washington Post that the U.S. paid North Korea $2 million for Warmbier’s medical bills when he was released from captivity in 2017.
In the article, the Washington Post said North Korean officials handed the U.S. envoy a bill for $2 million, “insisting he sign an agreement to pay it before they would allow him to take Warmbier home.”
President Donald Trump denies the report and says he did not pay.
Cindy Warmbier says she doesn’t fault anyone for signing to get Otto home.
“In fact, I applaud Ambassador Yun for making sure he brought Otto home. If I had to I would’ve raised the money and I wish they would have asked for the money from day one cause it was all about hostage taking. But instead they had a much bigger um, use for Otto,” she said.
“Had I known that North Korea wanted money for Otto, I would’ve gladly given them money from day one. That isn’t what they wanted from Otto at the beginning, First of all, they want everything they can get from anyone they can take.”
Cindy Warmbier also reflected on her pain and what her son experienced as a prisoner.
“I went on the plane. My gorgeous boy, who every girl had an immediate crush on, looked like a monster. I swear, the look in his eyes, which I didn’t know he was blind at the time, was absolute horror, horror, like he’d seen the devil and he had, he was with the devil,” she said.
She also addressed why she chose to spoke at the seminar, even though she is also trying to move on from the pain of losing her son.
“I’m here, um, to lend all my support because I had closure with what happened to Otto and they don’t have, they don’t have any idea and it’s gone on long enough," she said. "Do I, do I anticipate doing more of this? Everyone wants to know why we don’t do a lot of it. I’m trying to lead my life so this isn’t fun but I have to get the message out. So, I do what I need to when I think I need to. You’re all wonderful but you know, I have a real life, like a normal everyday life like Otto had. And um, I will keep talking until there’s change but it’s never easy for me but the Japanese here have suffered long enough and I’m just honored that they include me.”