Before I say anything else, allow me to state the obvious. Otto Warmbier did not deserve to die as the result of his incorceration in North Korea. That is obvious.
So how did it happen? From the record so far, it appears that Warmbier removed something from his hotel room to return it to the US as a souvenir. That is strictly forbidden in North Korea, and Warmbier was arrested at the airport where the artifact was discovered.
After that, Warmbier was incarcerated for 17 months. We have no idea what happened during that time. But we can make a conjecture based on what we know now. The young man, who had been healthy before his trip, died very shortly thereafter being let go. In other words, he was brutalized and died from the trauma.
I am reminded of a stroy written by Somerset Maugham years ago called “Christmas Holiday”. It is a good read. In this story, Maugham brings out a clash of mindsets — one from a comfortable and trusting setting and the other from a not so comfortable and not trusting one. Guess what happens? I call it a reality sandwich.
Young Otto had the false impression that he would be treated differently because he was American. Sadly, he did not understand that his being American would make his detention all the more dangerous. He did not understand that reality is more complex and dangerous outside of the protection of home.