An American student who was detained for 17 months in North Korea has died. Otto Warmbier, 22, was returned to the US last week after a year spent in North Korea after he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour for attempting to steal a propaganda sign from a hotel.
“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,” a statement from the family 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.”
Warmbier was in a coma for close to a year, according to reports. North Korean officials said it was a result of botulism, but doctors in America later refuted that as being the cause. He returned to his home in Cincinnati, Ohio, and died shortly after returning home.
The economics student was visiting North Korea in January of 2016 as a tourist when he was arrested after the attempted theft. “The aim of my task was to harm the motivation and work ethic of the Korean people,” Warmbier later said in a confessional video. It’s not clear whether the confession was coerced by the Koreans.
His confession, however, reads as though it was supplied. “I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country, I wish that the United States administration never manipulate people like myself in the future to commit crimes against foreign countries. I entirely beg you, the people and government of the DPRK, for your forgiveness. Please! I made the worst mistake of my life!”
A spokesperson for the US State Department said back when Warmbier was detained that the harsh sentence was a backlash for US sanctions placed on North Korea for its nuclear activities.