Well here’s an unfortunate update to what was already a very sad story…
Last March I posted about a 21 year old University of Virginia student who was being detained in North Korea. He had traveled to North Korea over New Years, and was accused of trying to steal a North Korean banner from the hotel he was staying at.
North Korea accused him of committing a “hostile act” on behalf of a church, a secretive university organization, and the CIA. Within a couple of weeks he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor in North Korea, as he “confessed to the serious offense against the DPRK he had committed, pursuant to the U.S. government’s hostile policy toward it, in a bid to impair the unity of its people after entering it as a tourist.”
I hadn’t seen any update on this situation for a while, until now (which isn’t surprising, given that the only news that typically comes out of North Korea is what they want us to know). After more than 17 months in North Korean captivity, Otto Warmbier has returned to the US in a coma, which he has apparently been in for over a year. According to CNN:
His return to the US comes as questions swirl about his health and what happened to him while he was detained by the North Korean government. The 22-year-old contracted botulism last year and is in “bad shape,” a source close to the family told CNN. North Korea told a US official that Warmbier contracted botulism and slipped into the coma after taking a sleeping pill, a senior State Department official told CNN.
“Otto has left North Korea. He is on Medivac flight on his way home. Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago,” said Fred and Cindy Warmbier in a statement.
Man oh man… here’s to hoping he’s able to recover from this. It’s sad — though not surprising — that they’d let him be in a coma for over a year, presumably without giving him the care he needed.
People often ask me where my “line” is when it comes to where I’ll travel to. As much as I’m fascinated by the country, I think my line is right at North Korea.