Seoul, – A student of University of Virginia in the United States, has been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment with hard labour by the North Korean authority.
He was accused of attempting to steal a propaganda slogan poster from his Pyongyang hotel, a media report said.
“The student, Otto Frederick Warmbier, was arrested in January 2, while perpetrating a hostile act against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,’’ a report said in February.
It said that Warmbier was presented to a press conference on February 29, where he confessed to the crime of stealing the slogan, an act aimed at hurting the work ethics and motivation of the North Korean people.
“I have been very impressed by the Korean government’s humanitarian treatment of severe criminals like myself,’’ Warmbier said in the video broadcast.
The 21-year-old student told North Korean media that a church in the U.S. had asked him to steal the sign, which was to be put on display as a kind of trophy.
He said that the church had promised him a used car worth 10,000 dollars in return for the item.
The church also reportedly said it would give Warmbier’s mother 200,000 dollars in the event that he did not return.
North Korea has arrested a number of foreign nationals for “hostile acts” in recent years, including individuals from the U.S. and South Korea.
In late 2014, the country prematurely released U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae just one year into his 15-year sentence, along with another alleged U.S. spy.
The Americans were released after James Clapper, U.S. Director of National Intelligence, flew to Pyongyang to personally campaign for their freedom.
The sentencing came amid increased tensions on the peninsula, after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday vowed to conduct nuclear warhead test and ballistic missile launches soon.
Pyongyang said on March 9 that it has succeeded in making nuclear warheads small enough to be carried by its ballistic missiles, although some observers have doubted this.
North Korea has complained about the ongoing South Korean and U.S. joint military manouevres, which it described as rehearsal for invasion.
The United Nations Security Council has imposed its strictest sanctions ever on North Korea, in response to the tests of a nuclear device in January and a long-range rocket in February. (dpa/NAN)