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The North Korean mission to the United Nations is based in an office building in Manhattan at 820 Second Avenue, just one block from the UN. Now there are more and more calls to change the address of the building to 820 “Otto Warmbier Way”.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support for the street name has sparked bipartisan support from more officials and others who say renaming the street to Warmbier will remind the world and pay tribute to the brutality of Kim’s human rights violations, the young American who fell victim to the regime four years ago today.
“Manhattanites – and all New Yorkers – have always cared about the bigger world because so many of us came from elsewhere,” said Gale A. Brewer, president of Manhattan borough. “That is why it is for us personally to always strive for justice on the global stage. The torture of Otto Warmbier by the Kim-Jong-Un regime should never be forgotten, and the renaming of Second Avenue from 43rd.”
PRESSURE ON ‘OTTO WARMBIER WAY’ OUTSIDE NORTH KOREA’S UN MISSION CANCEL STEAM
Otto was a 22-year-old University of Virginia student on an educational tour of North Korea when he was mistakenly arrested, tortured, and severely brain damaged and unable to speak or hear sent home to Cincinnati. He died of his injuries on June 19, 2017. If he had lived he would be a New Yorker now. He was supposed to be doing an internship with financial firm Millstein and Company when he was arrested and planned to move to Manhattan after graduation to work on Wall Street.
“We are a symbol of human rights for the whole world, and we have historically faced dictators and tyrants in this city. This is a place that has really led international efforts against oppression,” said de Blasio at a press conference at City Hall.
“The fact that an American lost his life is something we have to remember and we have to honor his family and we have to speak out against the oppression that the North Korean people endure every day,” said the mayor.
Prominent representatives who have supported the “Otto Warmbier Way” so far include two former US foreign ministers, three former US ambassadors to the United Nations, a growing number of New York officials elected, as well as congressmen and US senators.
“I fully support the proposal to commemorate the life of University of Virginia student Otto Warmbier by renaming this street after him,” said Senator Tim Kaine, D-Va. Kaine, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee, which deals with human rights issues, said a street sign bearing Otto’s name was a visible symbol for North Korean diplomats of the true reality of Kim’s regime.
“This would remind the North Korean regime every day that it will be held accountable for the horrific murder of Otto and that his legacy will be forever honored. We will not forget him in the United States,” Kaine said. “As a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, I will continue to crack down on the unjust arrest, repression and detention of American citizens abroad.”
MESSAGE FROM NEW YORK CITY TO KIM JONG UN HONORS OTTO WARMBIER
Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and its Subcommittee on Human Rights, also said the street sign was a clear message to UN diplomats about American values.
“Kim Jung Uns imprisonment and torture of Otto Warmbier must not be forgotten or pushed aside,” Van Hollen told Fox News.
“Naming the street in front of the North Korean mission to the United Nations after Otto Warmbier is a fitting message to your regime – and will serve as a clear reminder of where our nation stands.”
Former UN ambassador and national security adviser John Bolton, who negotiated with the North Koreans as a US assistant for arms control and international security affairs, has joined two of his fellow UN ambassadors in support.
“The murder of Otto Warmbier by North Korea was a tragedy for the Warmbier family and our country. It showed exactly what kind of criminals rule in Pyongyang. America should never forget Otto,” he said.
The honorary street naming was first proposed to the city council by councilor Joe Borelli in 2019. Those who previously announced their support include former Secretary of State John Kerry, Mike Pompeo, former UN Ambassadors Bill Richardson and Kelly Craft, and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, who represents the district.
New York State Representative Harvey Epstein, who also represents the district, added his name for the street sign.
“As New Yorkers, we have a responsibility to denounce injustice and human rights abuses, whether or not it happens in our city, which is thousands of miles away,” Epstein told Fox News. “This street renaming is an important way of honoring a young life lost too early and sending a message to a repressive state that has no concept of human rights for its own citizens or visitors.”
But despite the broad support, the Council has not done anything so far.
New York City has a history of naming existing streets for various political reasons, politicians, human rights, and political activists. The most recent renaming for a reason went to the Black Lives Matter movement, which changed part of Center Street near City Hall to Black Lives Matter Boulevard. In addition, murals were painted on a street in each of the five districts in honor of the group.
In the Bronx, officials have approved the city council to rename a section of White Plains Road “Ibrahim al-Hamdi Way” in honor of the former President of Yemen who was assassinated in 1977.
“Whatever kind of recognition the former Yemeni President Ibrahim al-Hamdi deserves, it seems strange that the city council will name a street after someone who has never set foot in the United States while honoring an American martyr so far denied. “” said Mark Foley, the Republican and Liberal candidate for city council on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
“Although we often say ‘never forget’, concrete actions like this keep us from doing it. An evil, repressive regime that has total control over people’s lives and even power over life and death itself must never be tolerated. Otto Warmbier was at the very beginning of his adult life when he was kidnapped and tortured by thugs on the orders of an evil communist regime. This is a true reminder of the reality and brutal brutality of an authoritarian government. Let the North Koreans see this every single day and let them know we are seeing them and who they are, “he said.
Korean Americans, some of whom know firsthand the cruelty of the Kim Jong Un regime, are also on board, including two Korean-American congressmen.
“Mr. Warmbier has seen what no American – or no human – should ever go through. The renaming of the North Korean Regime’s Mission Road to the United Nations ‘Otto Warmbier Way’ enables our country to honor the life of Mr. Warmbier and sends a strong message to the North Korean regime that the United States of America will not shy away from it to hold them accountable for their repeated human rights violations, “said Incheon, South Korea-born MP Young Kim, R-California.
“As one of the first Korean Americans in Congress, an immigrant from South Korea and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I support this initiative and will continue to do my part in advocating for human rights around the world and recording abuses,” said Rep Kim.
Kim’s Californian compatriot, Seoul-born MP Michelle Steel, shares these views.
“Otto Warmbier’s death is a tragic reminder of the brutality of the North Korean regime and the lack of concern for human life. Otto should be alive today and have had the opportunity to live in New York City as he planned to serve as a reminder to the North Korean regime that the US stands firmly against its grave human rights violations, and to Otto’s family that he does not is forgotten, “said Steel.
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Washington DC-based activist group The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea hopes Manhattan’s Otto Warmbier Way will be the first of many more streets of its kind to be renamed in front of 49 North Korean embassies around the world.
“The Kim regime imprisoned and killed Otto Warmbier,” said HRNK managing director Greg Scarlatoiu.
“Millions of unknown North Koreans are similarly exposed to the brutality of this regime. More than a hundred thousand men, women and children are tortured, starved and ill-treated in North Korea’s political prison camps The North Korean Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York City ‘Otto Warmbier Way’ could be the opening salvo to a global effort to bring the Kim regime to account to pull.
A street renaming bill must be approved by all 51 members of New York City Council before it is signed by the mayor.
Ben Evansky contributed to this report.