Otto Warmbier
Otto Warmbier Reuters

The parents of Jewish American college student Otto Warmbier are working to find and shut down illicit North Korean business assets around the world in order to hold its government accountable for widespread human rights abuses, JTA reported Sunday.

The parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, also called for the Trump administration to raise North Korea’s human rights problems while negotiating the country’s disarmament from nuclear weapons.

Warmbier was arrested for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel while on a visit to Pyongyang in January 2016. The University of Virginia student from Ohio was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, but was released after 17 months in June of 2017.

The 22-year-old died shortly after he returned to the United States.

The Warmbiers were speaking last week at a forum hosted by a Seoul-based group representing the families of South Koreans abducted by the North during the 1950-53 Korean War.

In December 2018, a US federal judge ordered North Korea to pay a $501 million in a wrongful death suit filed by the Warmbiers, which they are unlikely to collect.

In July, Warmbier’s parents filed a claim in federal court in New York for a North Korean cargo ship seized by the US The vessel was detained in May because it was carrying coal to be sold in other countries in violation of United Nations sanctions.

Upon his release, North Korea said Warmbier’s health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism. Warmbier’s doctors in the US said he suffered extensive brain damage.

Earlier this year, US President Donald Trump asserted that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had been unaware of the harrowing treatment the student endured while detained there.

Warmbier’s parents later replied in a blistering statement in which they said Kim and his government "are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity".