By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia 

PYONGYANG, North Korea – Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia, died on June 19, 2017 after spending 17 months in a prison in North Korea. Mr. Warmbier returned to Cincinnati on June 13 after being released by the North Korean government.

Otto Warmbier was detained in North Korea for allegedly stealing a propaganda sign. Photo courtesy of Reuters.

When he was traveling in China in 2015, Mr. Warmbier signed up for a five-day tour of North Korea with a Chinese company.

Mr. Warmbier was arrested in early January 2016 and was charged with “hostile act” against the regime for stealing government property. The North Korean government convicted him two months later after a one hour trial and sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor.

The doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center received two M.R.I. scans from North Korea that showed Mr. Warmbier’s brain injury shortly after his conviction. The doctors believe that he suffered a “severe neurological injury.” The extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain was most likely caused by cardiopulmonary arrest that cut off the blood supply to his brain.

As the doctors are unable to identify what caused the initial injury, they found no evidence of broken bones or injuries that shows physical abuse. The regime blamed Mr. Warmbier’s injuries to a combination of botulism and sleeping pills.

Mr. Warmbier’s death increased tensions between North Korea and the United States as President Donald J. Trump spoke on the “brutality of the North Korean regime.” Previously, the North Korean government called President Trump a “psychopath.”

President Trump firmly stated that he is determined to “prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency.”

Over 2,500 people gathered at Wyoming High School for Mr. Warmbier’s memorial service. He graduated from the school in 2013.

Three U.S. citizens, Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, and Kim Hak Song, are still held in North Korea.

For more information, please see: 

NYT – Otto Warmbier, American Student Released From North Korea, Dies – 19 June, 2017

BBC – Otto Warmbier: North Korea denies mistreating US student – 23 June, 2017

Reuters – North Korea says U.S. student’s death a ‘mystery to us as well’ – 23 June, 2017

Author: Brian Kim