The German court has ordered to shut down a hostel in Berlin that is believed to be owned by North Korea. The decision follows years of pressure from the parents of deceased Otto Warmbier, who died after being detained by North Korea on June 19, 2017, as well as Richard Grenell, the US ambassador to Germany and acting director of national intelligence.
It should be noted that the building, the Berlin City Hostel, looks like any modern hotel in a European city. The hostel, in which the rooms cost around $30 a night, is now closed due to the Coronavirus outbreak. As per the officials, it funneled around $41,000 a month into the pocket of Kim Jong Un's regime from the unsuspecting guests.
North Korea owned hostel in Berlin
As reported by the Fox News, earlier Grenell said that they wanted to get the hostel shut down as it is inappropriate for the "North Koreans to collect money in Berlin when there are sanctions on the regime via the UN" and a violation case of UN sanctions against Kim Jong Un's regime.
As per Grenell, the building is located on North Korea's diplomatic compound in Berlin which has been illegally operating for years. He said the North Korean government is doing this for a long time and "if not for governments to stand up, and specifically the Trump administration to stand up and say: 'this is a violation, it shouldn't happen,' these types of businesses just continue."
North Korea leases the building to a company which runs it but as per German media reports, the firm has stopped paying the North Korean authority almost three years ago.
However, in January 2020 the German court ordered North Korean embassy to close down the hostel. A spokesperson from Germany's Federal Foreign Office has said that Germany is "committed to full sanctions implementation against North Korea." He also added that after Berlin state authorities ordered the closure of the building, the regional court confirmed the order on January 28. As per the spokesperson, "We expect the order to be implemented once court ruling takes legal force."
Otto Warmbier and his parents
Cindy and Fred Warmbier, the parents of deceased college student Otto Warmbier, have been waiting for the hostel to shut down as they campaigned for the building to be closed ever since they heard about it. Their son, Otto at the age of 22, went to North Korea for an educational tour. He died in Ohio after returning more than 15 months of captivity in North Korea.
Here it should be mentioned that on December 30, 2015, Otto went to Pyongyang from Beijing with a tour group and on January 2, 2016, he was arrested at Pyongyang International Airport and later North Korea announced that it was holding the student for a "hostile act." After he was released from North Korea and medically evacuated to the US on June 13, 2017, doctors revealed that he has suffered a severe brain injury.
However, after visiting the hostel last year, his father Fred Warmbier said, "Kim has billions in Swiss bank accounts and homes in Switzerland and nobody challenges them on this. We are going to challenge North Korea any way we can."
Lothar Harings, the German lawyer representing the Warmbier family said that he hopes the ruling will send a signal to other member states of the European Union to terminate commercial activities by North Korean embassies. He added, "We want to hold the regime in North Korea accountable for its actions, for the torture and murder of Otto Warmbier."
Berlin hostel is just an example of how North Korean leader Kim Jong Un finances his regime through foreign funds, said Sung-Yoon Lee, a professor of Korean studies at the Fletcher School at Tufts University. He mentioned that now the time has come when the world should understand that North Korea "operates and thinks like a criminal syndicate" adding that "It takes a lot of effort and work to go after North Korea's illicit activities but it's the right approach."
Meanwhile, smashing all the death rumours when Kim Jong Un re-appeared in public, US President Donald Trump celebrated North Korean leader's first public appearance via Twitter after days of speculation about his health. His tweet instantly sparked Otto's name to appear on trends as the President's critics sought to remind him of Warmbier's death.