Daily Update–June 15: Statement on Otto Warmbier Case

In yesterday’s Daily Update, I reported on the story of Otto Warmbier who had been recently medevacked from Pyongyang. Today, his doctors said that Mr. Warmbier had extensive loss of brain tissue yet showed no signs of trauma. Dr. Kanter, head of the neurocritical care program at University of Cincinnati Health, described Warmbier’s state as one of “unresponsive wakefullness,” adding that he seemed to have no understanding of language or oral commands (NPR).

Warmbier’s father also spoke out today. During a press conference, Fred Warmbier, Otto’s father, blasted the North Korea regime for the brutal treatment of his son, arguing that their was no reason for North Korea to deny him top medical care (USA Today). The elder Warmbier wore the same beige jacket his son confessed in after an hour-long show trial in March of 2016. Fred Warmbier also denied the story given by North Korean officials as to why Otto came home in a coma (NY Times). The elder Warmbier blasted the North Korean regime and the Obama administration while praising the actions of President Trump, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Ambassador Joesph Yun, the State Department’s Special Envoy for North Korean Affairs.

The story of Otto Warmbier is tragic. A promising, young college student ripped from his daily life in a heartbeat, only to return to his family and country in a dire state. North Korea’s abhorrent treatment of Warmbier–hiding the neurological issue, denying Sweedish consular access, and denial of proper medical treatment–are grim reminders of reality in the secluded state.[1] A proper and swift response is required to ensure Pyongyang understands that the inhuman treatment of foreigners will not be tolerated. We at The Korea Page would like to send out our thoughts to the Warmbier family and we also wish Otto a swift recovery. No family should have to suffer at the hands of another state as the Warmbiers have.

North Korea still holds 3 Americans hostage. During his trip to secure Warmbier, Joesph Yun was able to see the other three and said they are in a healthy state (Washington Post). Those in custody in North Korea are Kim Dong-chol, Kim Hak-song, and Kim Sang-duk. The Korea Page would like to also send our thoughts out to these three men and their families.


[1] Since the United States does not have a relationship, diplomatically, with North Korea, all Americans visiting, detained, and in the country are represented within North Korea by the Sweedish Embassy in Pyongyang.

Corrections: Minor editing changes to ensure proper grammar was used in the post. (6/18)


2 thoughts on “Daily Update–June 15: Statement on Otto Warmbier Case”

  1. There should be more of an outcry over this….this young lad has been robbed of his past, present and the future that he was studying for. Where was the help that Otto needed in those early days before and after his sham trial? What was the Obama government doing to secure his release? Where are all the messages of support from the music and film stars that usually get involved in human rights issues, please show your support for this young man, a visit or a recorded message to otto might help. Praying that he will make progress soon .


    1. Otto’s case is a tragic one which showcases the brutality of North Korea and the dangers of travelling to North Korea. Not to credit Obama, but I am sure he had some sort of back channel communication to get Otto and the three others back onto U.S. soil. Like his North Korea policy in a broad context, however, Obama was ultimately unsuccessful. Considering the way the story played out–I am currently working on a statement regarding recent events in the case–North Korea would have released him no matter who was elected. (Trump was the president who brought him home and does deserve credit where it is due.) Kim did not want an American citizen to die in North Korean prison. I am grateful he made it home but deeply saddened by how he came home and how it ultimately ended.

      For celebrities, I think many simply don’t care about North Korea. It is a sad thing since they tend to have a platform many listen to. Hopefully there is more of an outcry against the regime following this story, but, knowing celebrities, it will simply be a passing fancy if anything manifests. It saddens me to think that this case has not received any real celebrity attention, since, as you mentioned, many are quick to condemn any violation of human rights that perceive in the world.

      I hope for the outcry, but sadly it will get sweep under the rug by missile tests and nuclear threats. Let’s hope Otto’s story is heard across the spectrum and leads to real policy on North Korea.


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