otto Warmbier
February 5, 2018

Vice President Mike Pence is bringing the father of Otto Warmbier as his guest to the Olympics Opening Ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, The Washington Post reports. Otto Warmbier was 21 when he was imprisoned by North Korea in 2016 for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel room. He was medically evacuated to the United States in a coma last June, which was apparently caused by an unknown injury from a year prior. He died shortly after returning to the U.S.

Pence is leading the 2018 U.S. Winter Olympic delegation and will bring Otto's father Fred as his guest. Pence's presence in South Korea is intended to "reinforce the strong U.S. presence on the Korean Peninsula and send a clear signal to the North Korean regime," a White House official told CBS News. North Korea and South Korea have defused tensions ahead of the international sporting event, going as far as to agree to march under a unified flag.

In an emotional press conference last year, Fred Warmbier praised President Trump for bringing his son home. "The era of strategic patience for the Warmbier family is over," he additionally told The Washington Post in a criticism of the Obama administration's handling of the incident. Jeva Lange

September 27, 2017

An Ohio coroner said Wednesday that Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old University of Virginia student imprisoned in North Korea for more than a year, died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain.

Warmbier died June 19, just a few days after he was released from North Korean custody and sent back to the United States while in a coma; North Korea said he fell into a coma after contracting botulism and taking a sleeping pill. Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco said his death was caused by an unknown injury that happened more than a year before he died, adding, "We don't know what happened to him and that's the bottom line." Warmbier's family requested that just an external examination, not a full autopsy, be conducted.

A native of Wyoming, Ohio, Warmbier visited North Korea in late 2015 as part of a tour group, and state media said he was arrested after he tried to take a propaganda poster from his hotel; he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. On Tuesday, his father, Fred Warmbier, told Fox News his son had been tortured and it "looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth." President Trump later tweeted that Warmbier had been "tortured beyond belief by North Korea," but Sammarco said there was no evidence of any trauma to his teeth or broken bones, Reuters reports. Catherine Garcia

June 20, 2017

Following the death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier on Monday, the tour company that arranged his visit to North Korea announced it will stop taking American citizens to the country. 


The University of Virginia student was traveling in China when he signed up for Young Pioneer Tour's five-day trip to North Korea; while he was there, North Korea claimed he took a political poster from the hotel he was staying in, and Warmbier was locked up for this "hostile act." After spending 17 months in detention, Warmbier was released back to the U.S. on June 13, in a coma. Young Pioneer Tours sent USA Today an email calling Warmbier's death "devastating," adding, "There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality, and we have been struggling to process the result. Now, the assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high."

The company — which used the motto "we provide budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from" — said they were told while Warmbier was in custody that he was fine, and because no information on his detention has been released, "we will no longer be organizing tours for U.S. citizens to North Korea." The United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea, and the State Department "strongly warns" against citizens traveling there. Catherine Garcia

June 15, 2017

Otto Warmbier's father, Fred Warmbier, spoke publicly on Thursday for the first time since Otto was released from North Korea earlier this week. Warmbier, 22, was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in 2015, when he was 21, after he stole a propaganda sign from his hotel room. Warmbier's release was announced on Tuesday by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Pyongyang claims they released Warmbier on "humanitarian grounds"; he has allegedly been in a coma since shortly after he was sentenced.

Fred Warmbier told reporters that he received a phone call from President Trump on Wednesday night: "He just wanted to find out how Cindy [Warmbier] and I were doing, and wanted to know about Otto," Fred Warmbier said. "It was a really nice conversation. It was kind. It was, 'Are you taking care of yourself?' And, 'We worked hard, and I'm sorry this is the outcome.'"

Fred Warmbier added: "To be honest with you, I had avoided conversations with [Trump]. Because, to what end? I'm dealing with my son, this is about Otto. But I did take the call and it was gracious, it was nice, and it felt good. And I thank him for that."

Fred Warmbier also criticized the Obama administration, giving credit to President Trump for returning Otto to the United States. "When Otto was first taken, we were advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release," Warmbier said. "We did so without result. Earlier this year, Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over. … It is my understanding that [Special Representative for North Korea Policy Joseph Y. Yun] and his team, at the direction of the president, aggressively pursued resolution of the situation."

When asked directly if he believed Obama could have done more to help Otto Warmbier, Fred Warmbier said: "I think the results speak for themselves." Jeva Lange

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