Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was imprisoned in North Korea for over seventeen months, returned home on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. Unfortunately, Otto’s return was bittersweet as the college student has been in a coma for over a year. Otto’s father, Fred Warmbier, gave a televised statement to the press on June 15, 2017.
Otto is currently being treated at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center. Kelly Martin, Senior Director of Communications at University of Cincinnati Health, said that Otto was “in stable condition but received a severe neurological injury.”
Fred Warmbier chose to wear his son’s coat during his statement. Otto wore the same coat on March 16, 2016, during the televised “confession” of his crimes against the North Korean people and government. Otto was accused of attempting to steal a propaganda poster to bring home as a souvenir and convicted of “dangerous acts against the state.” He received a sentence of fifteen years imprisonment with hard labor.
According to the North Korean government, Otto Warmbier contracted botulism after his trial and fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill. News of his condition only reached the United States only a week before his release for, as the North Koreans put it, “humanitarian reasons.” During his statement, Fred Warmbier rejected North Korea’s explanation for his son’s condition.
Even if you believe their explanation of botulism and a sleeping pill causing a coma, and we don’t, there is no excuse for any civilized nation to have kept his condition a secret and denied him top-notch medical care for so long.
In a separate statement, Otto Warmbier’s doctors described his condition. While they would not discuss his prognosis, University of Cincinnati Medical Center doctors described stated that Otto suffered extensive brain damage and that there were no current signs of botulism. Dr. Daniel Kanter, director of the Neurocritical Care Program, said that his patient had not “engaged in any purposeful movements” and “shows no signs of understanding language or responding to verbal commands.”
Fred Warmbier was critical of the Obama Administration’s handling of his son’s situation. “When Otto was first taken,” he stated, “we were advised by the past administration to take a low profile while they worked to obtain his release. We did so without result.” When asked if he believed the previous administration had could have done more to secure his son’s release Mr. Warmbier flatly replied, “I think the results speak for themselves.” He also praised the Trump Administration’s assistance in bringing his son home.
Earlier this year Cindy and I decided the time for strategic patience was over and we made a few media appearances and traveled to Washington to meet with Ambassador Joe Yun at the State Department. It is my understanding that Ambassador Yun and his team at the direction of the president aggressively pursued resolution of the situation. They have our thanks for bringing Otto home.
While some are quick to say that Otto Warmbier “should have known better,” one thing remains clear. Despite his ill-advised tour of North Korea and alleged attempt to steal a propaganda poster, the treatment that he and other prisoners (there are three Americans still imprisoned in North Korea) received is unacceptable. So too is the Obama administration’s failure to act. The difference in reaction between the Trump and Obama administrations demonstrates a clear contrast in foreign policy. While the Obama Administration was content to use “strategic patience” (words echoed in Fred Warmbier’s statement), President Trump is taking a decidedly more proactive approach to North Korea.
With the emplacement of the THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea and increased pressure from the Chinese (at the behest of President Trump), North Korea is feeling the pressure. We at Liberty Nation have no doubt that this added pressure directly contributed to the release of Otto Warmbier.
One down, three to go.