Fred and Cindy Warmbier are seeking the ship to satisfy part of a $500 million judgment against North Korea awarded in December for the death of their 22-year-old son. North Korean authorities arrested Warmbier in North Korea in 2016 and detained him for more than a year before returning him to the U.S. in 2017 in a vegetative state. He died just days later.
No North Korea representative has engaged in discussion with the Warmbiers to settle the judgment, leaving the family “to chase down the assets of North Korea to recover what they can for the torture and death of their son,” CNN reported, citing language from the filing.
The claim denounces North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un and “his cronies” for showing “no regard for human life.”
“We are committed to holding North Korea accountable for the death of our son Otto, and will work tirelessly to seize North Korean assets wherever they may be found,” the Warmbiers said in a statement.
The family’s court action contrasts sharply with President Donald Trump’s warm behavior toward Kim last month when the two leaders met at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. Trump has called Kim his “friend” and says he believes the dictator’s assertion that he played no role in Warmbier’s condition.
“I really believe something very bad happened to him,” Trump said of Warmbier after meeting with Kim in February. Kim “tells me that he didn’t know about it and I will take him at his word,” Trump added. “He felt badly about it. He knew the case very well, but he knew it later. Gotta lot of people, big country, lotta people.”
North Korea demanded a $2 million payment from the U.S. for Warmbier’s hospital care. National security adviser John Bolton said the U.S. agreed to pay for Warmbier’s release, but both he and Trump said the money was never handed over.
The North Korean cargo ship the Warmbier family is seeking was seized in May for violating U.S. sanctions that prohibit most international trade with the Asian nation. Prosecutors said the ship transported coal to other countries and carried heavy machinery into North Korea, according to CNN.