Families of Lee Dae-jun, Otto Warmbier meet

Families of Lee Dae-jun, Otto Warmbier meet

The families of Otto Warmbier and Lee Dae-jun meet Saturday. From left: Lee Rae-jin, Cindy and Fred Warmbier, and Rep. Ha Tae-kyung. (courtesy of Lee)

The families of Otto Warmbier and Lee Dae-jun meet Saturday. From left: Lee Rae-jin, Cindy and Fred Warmbier, and Rep. Ha Tae-kyung. (courtesy of Lee)

The families of Lee Dae-jun, a South Korean government official shot dead by North Korean troops at sea in 2020, and Otto Warmbier, a US college student who died after North Korea’s detainment left him in a coma in 2017, met on Saturday.

Lee Rae-jin, the older brother of the South Korean official, and Fred and Cindy Warmbier, parents of the American student, got together for the first time at the couple’s home in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Speaking to The Korea Herald, Lee said that among other things, they talked about jointly investigating the size and status of North Korea’s financial assets and businesses, sharing them with other victims of North Korea’s human rights abuses, and then seeking legal avenues to seize or shut them down.

Lee said he would join the Warmbiers’ efforts to go after North Korea’s assets or properties and force its regime to take responsibility through litigation.

“It’s inspiring what the Warmbier family has been doing to make North Korea pay for what it’s done, and I intend to do the same,” he said. “North Korea continues to inflict tragedies upon family after family, which is why it is so important to make sure they know we are not going to sit idly by and let them get away it.”

In December 2018, the Warmbier parents won a wrongful death suit at a Washington court, which ordered North Korea to pay more than $500 million in damages. Part of the money they were awarded in January were from assets seized from a banking corporation found to be connected to the North Korean government.

Lee visited the cemetery in Cincinnati where the 22-year-old was laid to rest to pay his respects.

Shortly after his brother died, Lee said he wished to reach out to the Warmbiers for wisdom and cooperation on putting pressure on North Korea.

The Warmbiers responded with an open letter vowing solidarity and offering support. “We are the same victims of the same lies and horrific abuses of the Kim regime and know that it is important to stand up to them,” they said in the letter.

Ahead of Saturday’s meeting, Fred Warmbier said in exchanges with The Korea Herald that he and his wife, Cindy, “look forward to meeting” Lee and that they “support him and are proud of him.”

Lee left for the US on Sept. 13 with a delegation of South Korean lawmakers for the 18th general meeting of the International Parliamentarians’ Coalition for North Korean Refugees and Human Rights.

Lee sent a public message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un outside the office of the Permanent Mission of North Korea to the United Nations in New York on Friday, in which he asked for a chance to visit the site where his brother died.

The family is finally holding a funeral for Lee on Thursday, on the second anniversary of his death, in the hopes of retrieving his remains.

The chairperson of the international parliamentarians’ coalition Rep. Ha Tae-keung was also at Saturday’s meeting between the two families. Ha led the ruling People Power Party’s fact-finding task force on the killing of the South Korean government official.

By Kim Arin ([email protected])

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