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North Korean Prisoner’s Jewish Identity Kept Secret

from VIN News by Sandy Eller:

Days after the death of American college student Otto Warmbier who was imprisoned for 17 months in North Korea comes word that officials negotiating his release deliberately kept his Jewish identity hidden from his captors.

North Korean officials said that Warmbier was detained because he had removed a poster from the walls of a hotel lobby in Pyongyang and was planning to deliver it to an Ohio church in exchange for a $10,000 used car.

The Times of Israel reported that negotiators were concerned that if word leaked that Warmbier was Jewish and therefore unaffiliated with any church it could potentially humiliate the North Koreans, making it even more difficult to secure Warmbier’s release.

“The family chose, rightfully so, not to share that information while he was in captivity … because they didn’t want to embarrass [North Korea] by explaining that he actually was Jewish,” explained Mickey Bergman, executive director of The Richardson Center for Global Engagement which negotiates the release of prisoners who cannot be freed through conventional diplomatic channels.

Bergman said that it was obvious that the premise for Warmbier’s arrest was fabricated but that playing along with the narrative supplied by North Korea was the most logical course of action.

“If that’s what their story is, there’s no point in fighting it if your objective is to get him out,” said Bergman.  “When you realize he is Jewish you realize how objective that claim is.”

Warmbier’s family is not religiously observant, but he had always identified himself as Jewish and became active at the University of Virginia’s Hillel after taking a 2014 Birthright trip to Israel.  During that trip Warmbier took on a Hebrew name and described his trip to the Western Wall in a blog post, saying that have to leave the holy site was “like saying goodbye to a loved one.”

“Just being at a spot that has been central to Judaism for thousands of year was completely surreal,” wrote Warmbier.  “The power that emanated from the wall showed on the faces of all those who were near it.”


  • 1. Gun wrote:

    Makes no sense
    There are reports they attended a methodist church.
    Then the hillel rabbi refused to answer questions regarding if he was in fact jewish.
    So confusing

  • 3. Proud Jew wrote:

    Guys, do you have any clue just hope many under-affiliated Jews go to church???
    It’s a social thing. Let’s them connect with their neighbors on a more than “hello nice to see you” basis.
    I’m not condoning this. It’s totally assur, but realize that this is reality all over the world.
    So, to “Sad”, even if only the father is a Yid, do you realize he goes to church?
    Reach out to your brothers and help them come home instead of just assuming they are not Jews.

  • 4. Mendy wrote:


    why include the “not religiously observant “part?
    Or at least say …not yet or unknown religious level of observance…let’s start thinking and talking as The Rebbe taught us
    Also….you think for a minute..the North Koreans are dumb enough not to check social media for what he had ,holy Reb Otto…A”H..said about himself?


  • 5. DeClasse' Intellectual wrote:

    The only difference it might have made if the pervious person who was in the White House knew, then he might have looked the other way as he so often did when North Korea stepped over the red line laid down by the UN He had a strong dislike for the Jews and he was afraid to exert the full force of his position

  • 7. So Sad wrote:

    The problem is that Americans and the west in general just don’t get it!
    Communism is Communism!!!!!
    They trump up charges, they lie for their own benefit, the individual is not important!
    The life of a person is worth less than a fly on the wall.
    My parents went through Communism.
    To date when my mother sees a policeman she crosses the street.

  • 10. with the old breed wrote:

    North Korea is not Disney, it is a rough country with rough people. He should have stayed in the Holy land

  • 11. DeClasse' Intellectual wrote:

    #7 will raise two propositions for you: 1) you had he Bernie Sanders movement until he got ripped off by the Clinton group and yet many experts held that Sanders would have beaten Trump What did Sanders advocate–Communism by another name The ultimate irony was that Sanders supporters did not have life experiences in a communist country–I did as a an exchange student/scholar
    second the Liberal Jews stated they would vote against Trump for Clinton in spite of her anti-Israel stand and her association with George Soros because social issues we re important then the welfare of their fellow Jews in the Middle East

  • 12. Naive & reckless wrote:

    While I don’t condone the behavior of the North Koreans, I think what he did was foolish. This is a sick, dangerous country. He should have known better.


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