Bill that toughens sanctions against North Korea named for Otto Warmbier

WASHINGTON — A bill that will toughen American sanctions against North Korea is on its way to the president’s desk.

The legislation is named after Otto Warmbier, the college student from Cincinnati who died days after he was released by the oppressive regime.

News Center 7’s John Bedell spoke with Fred and Cindy Warmbier at Wyoming High School, Otto’s alma mater, in suburban Cincinnati in June 2017.

The Warmbiers continue to fight to keep their son’s memory alive and to make a difference in his honor.

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They’ve turned their grief over losing their son into something actionable.

“Following their son’s tragic death, the Warmbiers have dedicated themselves to shining a bright light on the gross human rights violations committed by the North Korean regime,” Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland, said.

Otto Warmbier was arrested in North Korea in January 2016, accused of stealing a propaganda poster. He was convicted in a show trial and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

When the North Koreans released him in June 2017, he came home to Cincinnati in a coma and died days later. His family said he showed signs of being tortured.

RELATED: President Trump: ‘It’s a total disgrace what happened to Otto’

“Effectively they killed Otto Warmbier, so from a human rights perspective only appropriate that we name this legislation after Otto,” Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said.

The bill toughens sanctions against North Korea, including punishing banks and businesses that do business with the communist country.

U.S. senators hope it brings the regime back to the bargaining table to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

RELATED: Otto Warmbier ‘didn’t die from working hard,’ local lawmaker says

Ohio Sens. Portman and Democrat Sherrod Brown worked to have the bill named for Otto Warmbier.

“To remind all Americans what the North Korean regime is capable of doing,” Brown said.

The Warmbiers are a family still grieving, but determined to make a difference in their son’s honor.

“I’m still traumatized by what North Korea did to our family and certainly what they did to our son. Today, I’m overjoyed at the commitment these senators have put into their efforts to make a difference in North Korea,” Fred Warmbier said.

RELATED: Doctors say Otto Warmbier has ‘extensive loss of brain tissue’ on return from North Korea

“My message is to North Korea like it always is. People matter. Otto matters. We’re never gonna let you forget our son,” Cindy Warmbier said.

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The bill is on its way to the White House as part of the National Defense Authorization Act.

President Trump is expected to sign it.

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