In a fairly recent development, a federal judge ordered North Korea to pay Otto Warmbier’s family more than 500 million in damages. For those who do not know the story, Otta Warmbier visited North Korea.
The North Korea lodges allegations against him that he had acted inappropriately while visiting. Thus, they did not allow him to leave and imprisoned them. Many in the United States believe that North Korea imprisoned him for negotiation purposes with the United States over their nuclear program.
Warmbier was kept in North Korea for more than a year. North Korea sentenced him to hard labor for a term of 15-years.
Eventually, North Korea returned Warmbier to the United States. But at the time they did, Warmbier was a deaf, blind and brain dead. He died a short time later.
The belief is that Warmbier was tortured brutally by the North Korean government. This was the crux of the legal case that was brought. A federal judge agreed and ordered damages in excess of 500 million.
The issue is North Korea is likely to never pay a dime. Since they are a foreign entity, there is nothing the United States can really do.
Of course, they can try to impose sanctions on North Korea. If there were any assets in the United States, those could perhaps be seized upon. There is also a fund setup for victims of state sponsored terrorism. This could be one way in which the family collects on the judgment.
This case certainly is an important case to study as it relates to international law and the ability to collect on a judgment against a foreign state.