I Was in Pyongyang When Otto Warmbier Was Released

June 20, 2017 Topic: Politics Region: Asia Blog Brand: The Skeptics Tags: North KoreaOtto WarmbierKim Jong-unDiplomacyDonald Trump

I Was in Pyongyang When Otto Warmbier Was Released

Despite Warmbier’s tragic death, Western visitors and North Koreans have much to learn from one another.

Banning Americans from visiting the North would be especially perverse when the rest of the world remains free to go. The embargo against Cuba has the same character: a politically determined policy without any serious chance of weakening the ruling regime. Congress should think how best to transform the North’s people as well as its government over the long term.

We may never know what happened to Otto Warmbier. His tragic case—nothing he did could justify his fate—offers a stark warning: visiting North Korea requires more than the usual caution when traveling abroad. But that’s no reason to block Americans from going. They have much both to learn and teach. Until the DPRK changes, individual travelers may end up being America’s most important and perhaps only ambassadors to North Korea.

Doug Bandow is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute and a former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. He is the author of Tripwire: Korea and U.S. Foreign Policy in a Changed World and co-author of The Korean Conundrum: America’s Troubled Relations with North and South Korea.

Image: A subway worker n in central Pyongyang, North Korea. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj