It’s probably in your best interest to stay away from North Korea right now.
Otto Frederick Warmbier, a college student from the University of Virginia, was in North Korea for a five-day New Year trip and was detained at Pyongyang airport on January 2 while trying to catch a flight back to China.
Kim Jong Un’s state-run KCNA news agency said Warmbier entered North Korea as a tourist “in order to destroy the country’s unity under the direction of the US government.”
It said the 21-year-old has links to Washington but did not elaborate.
The Young Pioneer Tour group, the China-based company that arranges tourist trips to North Korea, confirmed Warmbier’s detention.
“We can confirm that the reports that one of our clients is being detained in Pyongyang are true,” the tour group says on its website. “Their family have been informed and we are in contact with the Swedish Embassy, (who act as the protecting interest for U.S citizens), who are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to address the case.”
he US Embassy in Seoul has confirmed they are aware of the situation.
Warmbier is a third year Commerce student at the university, according to The Cavalier Daily, the school newspaper. Facebook lists an Otto Warmber, student at UVa, who lists his home town as Cincinnati. On it, Warmbier notes his passion for “worldly travels” and says he visited Cuba in May 2015.
Otto Warmbier has been sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for trying to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
The University of Virginia student was convicted after a one-hour trial at North Korea’s Supreme Court.
Watch his “confession” from February 29 below.
This is so crazy. He was just a college kid on vacation and now he’s in prison for the next decade and a half?
Otto isn’t alone. Other United States citizens have been held in Pyongyang in recent years, usually because of activities relating to Christianity and religion, and also have been sentenced to hard labor.
Warmbier’s recent release came as a surprise to the American government. Though it was a welcome shock, it is apparent that Warmbier’s condition is extremely grave. He has reportedly been in a coma since 2016, well over a year, and doctors are reporting that his condition is critical as he suffers from a “severe neurological injury,” according to a UC medical professional.
Warmbier’s parents say they were told he contracted botulism during his time being forced into hard labor for the North Korean government.
“Otto is not in great shape right now,” Otto’s father told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea.”
His parents will conduct a news conference in their home state of Ohio.
There are three other American detainees currently in North Korea and Otto’s condition has their families and the government concerned about their current condition. According to sources from diplomacy, things are going slow in regards to their release.
Otto Warmbier’s parents released a statement announcing that he had passed away.
It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20pm.
It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost — future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched — Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two — that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family.
We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto. Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.
When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable — almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed — he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.
We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too.
Fred & Cindy Warmbier and Family