US student freed by North Korea in a coma has died at 22

Associated Press

CINCINNATI (June 19, 2017) — Otto Warmbier, an American college student who was released by North Korea in a coma last week, died Monday afternoon. He was 22.

The family announced his death in a statement released by UC Health Systems, saying, "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."

The family thanked the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treating him but said, "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."

They said they were choosing to focus on the time they were given with their "warm, engaging, brilliant" son instead of focusing on what they had lost.

Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, convicted of subversion after he tearfully confessed he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months and medically evacuated from North Korea last week. Doctors said he returned with severe brain damage, but it wasn't clear what caused it.

Parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier told The Associated Press in a statement the day of his release that they wanted "the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime " and expressed relief he had been returned to "finally be with people who love him."

He was taken by Medivac to Cincinnati, where he grew up in suburban Wyoming. He was salutatorian of his 2013 class at the highly rated high school, and was on the soccer team among other activities.

Ohio's U.S. senators sharply criticized North Korea soon after his release.

Republican Sen. Rob Portman of the Cincinnati area said North Korea should be "universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior." Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Cleveland said the country's "despicable actions ... must be condemned." Portman added that the Warmbiers have "had to endure more than any family should have to bear."

Three Americans remain held in North Korea. The U.S. government accuses North Korea of using such detainees as political pawns. North Korea accuses Washington and South Korea of sending spies to overthrow its government.

At the time of Warmbier's release, a White House official said Joseph Yun, the U.S. envoy on North Korea, had met with North Korean foreign ministry representatives in Norway the previous month. Such direct consultations between the two governments are rare because they don't have formal diplomatic relations.

At the meeting, North Korea agreed that Swedish diplomats could visit all four American detainees. Yun learned about Warmbier's condition in a meeting a week before the release the North Korean ambassador at the U.N. in New York. Yunthen dispatched to North Korea and visited Warmbier June 12 with two doctors and demanded his release on humanitarian grounds.

We moderate all reader comments, usually within 24 hours of posting (longer on weekends). Please limit your comment to 300 words or less and ensure it addresses the article - NOT another reader's comments. Comments that contain a link (URL), an inordinate number of words in ALL CAPS, rude remarks directed at other readers, or profanity/vulgarity will not be approved. More details

SIGN UP FOR OUR DAILY NEWSBRIEF

SUBSCRIBE

VOTE IN OUR POLL

Why do you suspect LGBT activists mocked 'slippery slope' warning about marriage? (Choose all that apply)

CAST YOUR VOTE

GET PUSH NOTIFICATIONS

SUBSCRIBE

LATEST AP HEADLINES

Military heads want transgender enlistment hold
5 GOP senators now oppose health bill ... enough to sink it
40 people killed in bomb, gun attacks in 3 Pakistani cities
London council evacuates residents amid fire safety concerns
Utah evacuees watched flames draw closer, smoke get thicker
Senate panel seeks details on Lynch role in Clinton probe
Trump signs law to make VA more accountable for vets' care
Military leaders seek delay in transgender enlistment

LATEST FROM THE WEB

Washington Post confirms: Trump right on Russian election tampering
Caught on tape: Dem official says he's 'glad' Scalise got shot
Dem congressman: Let's face it, in some parts of the country– Pelosi is more toxic Trump
Senate Obamacare repeal draft includes Planned Parenthood defunding, pro-life language
Ferguson's Michael Brown to get Hollywood treatment

CARTOON OF THE DAY

Cartoon of the Day

REASON & COMPANY

NEXT STORY
Military heads want transgender enlistment hold

WASHINGTON (June 23, 2017) — Military chiefs will seek a six-month delay before letting transgender people enlist in their services, officials said Friday.