The family of stricken student Otto Warmbier mounted a bedside vigil on Wednesday after the student was flown home from North Korea showing no signs of improvement from his year-long coma.
Fred and Cindy Warmbier spent the night at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center after seeing the shocking condition that Kim Jong-un’s brutally repressive regime had allowed their son to fall into.
Otto, 22, was finally released by Pyongyang on Monday after intensive behind-the-scenes moves by President Donald Trump’s administration.
But he is showing no signs of coming out of the coma that North Korean officials say he has been in for a year after allegedly contacting botulism and being given a sleeping pill that knocked him out.
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Coma-stricken student Otto Warmbier, 22, was carried off a plane by two men after touching down in Cincinnati late on Tuesday following his release from a North Korean prison
Footage shows two men carrying the 22-year-old University of Virginia student from the plane by his arms and legs after it landed shortly before 10.20pm on Tuesday
Looking focused but extremely tired and drawn, and wearing a sharp blazer and white shirt, Fred Warmbier, 57, was spotted in the hospital coffee shop on Wednesday morning as he got some much needed refreshment for his family.
The family has praised the Trump administration for help in getting their son home, after claiming that President Barack Obama’s team had told them to keep quiet about their son’s fate.
Fred Warmbier told Fox News’s Tucker Carlson in April that he believed former Secretary of State John Kerry had been ‘exasperated’ by the case and had ‘absolutely not’ helped.
On the same show the couple begged the new president for help getting their son home. ‘President Trump, I ask you: Bring my son home. You can make a difference here,’ Fred Warmbier, the president of a specialty chemical company, said.
Current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced on Monday that the administration had won his release ‘at the direction’ of Trump.
Otto’s parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier said they believe their son has been in a coma since his trial, but they only learned of that fact last week. ‘We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime,’ they said. ‘We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him’
In a statement released this week Fred and Cindy Warmbier said they believe their son has been in a coma since his trial, but they only learned of that fact last week.
‘We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime,’ they said. ‘We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him.’
Otto, a commerce and economics student at the University of Virginia, was on a five-day New Year’s visit to the hermit kingdom organized by a Chinese company called Young Pioneer Tours — that advertises that it provides ‘budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.’ Its website says it also offers visits to Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba and even Chernobyl, the Ukrainian site of the world’s worst nuclear accident.
His group was just leaving from Pyongyang Airport on January 2, 2016 when he was pulled aside by North Korean guards who claimed he had torn down a propaganda poster from a staff-only floor of his hotel. After a trial lasting just an hour he was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor for trying to bring down the foundation of North Korea’s ‘single-minded unity.’
Authorities claimed Otto had been promised a used car by a church in his hometown of Wyoming, just outside Cincinnati if he brought back a poster as a trophy — a claim that has been widely ridiculed.
A grainy video, allegedly showing Warmbier removing the poster which read ‘Let’s arm ourselves strongly with Kim Jong-il’s patriotism!’ was shown at the trial, but the person’s face was hidden so there was no definitive proof that it was actually him. Kim Jong-il was the father of current leader Kim Jong-un.
Treatment: Otto Warmbier is seen on a stretcher after landing at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati
The 22-year-old student – who has been in a coma for a year – was put onto a stretcher and whisked away in an ambulance to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treatment
Anguish: Family members embrace and are consoled after Otto Warmbier was returned last night
Urgency: Medical personnel and visitors gather at the nose of the private plane carrying Otto Warmbier
Diplomats from Sweden, which represents the United States’ interests in North Korea as Washington has no contact with the country, tried to visit him in prison but were repeatedly rebuffed, although they did visit him in March.
He was finally released after talks between Washington officials and the North Korean representative at the United Nations.
Otto was flown into Lunken Airport in Cincinnati on Tuesday night after a 14-hour flight from Japan on a medical plane shortly before 10.20 pm.
Wearing a blue shirt and black pants he was carried down the steps of the plane and placed on a stretcher. A waiting ambulance then rushed him to the University Medical Center.
In Warmbier’s hometown of Wyoming, Ohio, a wealthy suburb of Cincinnati, blue and white ribbons — the high school’s colors — were put up by residents. A lone police officer blocked the private road leading to his parents’ 4,800 sq. ft. home
‘Everybody feels a sense of relief that he is coming back to the United States,’ resident Amy Mayer said before he arrived.
‘I think we’re very excited yet very prayerful about what is happening because we’ve heard he is in a coma. So I think that people are trying to be supportive of the family and let the community-family know that we are very with them.’
A hospital spokeswoman said Warmbier’s family was expected to hold a news conference Thursday morning at Wyoming High School.
Well wishers: Members of the public turn out at the airport to welcome back Otto Warmbier
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student was then taken by ambulance (pictured) to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for treatment
Warmbier arrived home to Ohio Tuesday night after serving 17 months of a 15-year prison term in a North Korean prison. An airplane carrying Otto Warmbier arrived in Cincinnati shortly before 10.20pm
North Korea claims Warmbier, pictured at the North Korean Supreme Court, contracted botulism in March of 2016 and was given a sleeping pill from which he never woke up – an astonishing claim that could not be independently verified
Securing Warmbier’s release “was a big priority” for President Donald Trump, who worked “very hard and very closely” with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
The surprise announcement of Warmbier’s release coincided with the visit of former NBA star Dennis Rodman – a longtime friend of the North Korean regime.
A US official has insisted that the State Department secured the jailed student’s release and Rodman’s trip to Pyongyang was a ‘bizarre coincidence’.
Department of State spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters Rodman had nothing to do with the release.
Rodman, one of few people to have met both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, told reporters before arriving in Pyongyang that the issue of Americans detained by North Korea is ‘not my purpose right now’.
Dennis Rodman told reporters as he boarded a flight to North Korea that pushing for the return of Americans detained there was not his purpose in visiting
Securing Warmbier’s release ‘was a big priority’ for Trump, who worked ‘very hard and very closely’ with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said
Police block the private drive leading to the Warmbier residence in the Wyoming neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio
Securing Warmbier’s release ‘was a big priority’ for Trump, who worked ‘very hard and very closely’ with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.
While North Korea’s move to free Warmbier could potentially provide an opening for talks on security issues, the prospects still appear bleak.
International negotiations on the dispute over North Korea’s nuclear program have been in limbo for years, as the US cranks up economic sanctions and the North won’t give up weapons it considers a guarantee against invasion.
The North claims Warmbier contracted botulism in March 2016 and was given a sleeping pill from which he never woke up. The regime released Warmbier as former NBA star Dennis Rodman paid a visit to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (file image)
Warmbier was arrested on New Year’s Eve in Pyongyang for allegedly stealing a hotel poster and paraded for the cameras during his March 2016 show trial.
He had been sentenced to 15-years in a North Korean prison with hard labor.
Rex Tillerson says the State Department secured Warmbier’s release
‘Our son is coming home,’ Fred Warmbier told The Post. ‘At the moment, we’re just treating this like he’s been in an accident. We get to see our son Otto tonight.’
Secretary of State Tillerson said the State Department secured Warmbier’s release at the direction of Trump.
Tillerson’s statement did not mention Warmbier’s medical condition.
One administration insider told the Post that Warmbier’s release was ‘a Trump-led effort’.
On Thursday, US State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Joseph Yun arrived in North Korea with a medical team to bring Warmbier out, according to the newspaper.
Administration sources told the Post that there had been no word of Warmbier until an unexpected communication from North Korean officials on June 5, saying the student had been a coma for over a year.
US officials speculated that Rodman’s trip was a North Korean diversion from the student’s medical state.
Rodman’s trip to the isolated regime was sponsored by a financial services company for legalized marijuana. Rodman knows both Kim Jong-Un and Trump personally
This marks Rodman’s fourth trip to the country since 2013. The visit sparked speculation that Rodman, who has close ties to the North Korean regime led by Jong-Un (file), could negotiate for the release of Warmbier and three other US citizens being held in the isolated country
This marks Rodman’s fourth trip to the country since 2013.
The visit sparked speculation that Rodman, who has close ties to the North Korean regime led by Kim Jong-Un, could negotiate for the release of Warmbier and three other US citizens being held in the isolated country.
THREE US CITIZENS STILL DETAINED IN NORTH KOREA
Kim Dong Chul
Kim Dong Chul: Naturalized US citizen born in South Korea, detained in October 2015 on espionage charges. Serving ten years in prison with hard labor.
Kim Sang-duk: A Korean-American professor arrested in April 2017 while guest lecturing on international finance in Pyongyang. Charged with ‘hostile criminal acts with an aim to subvert the country’.
Kim Hak-Song: Arrested May 2017. Like Kim Sang-Duk, he taught at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology. He was accused of ‘hostile acts’.
Rodman appeared as a cast member on two seasons of Trump’s television series Celebrity Apprentice, and is one of the few people with ties to both nuclear-armed leaders.
A company called PotCoin, which calls itself a ‘community-based cryptocurrency for legalized marijuana’ released a statement on Tuesday saying it was sponsoring Rodman’s trip.
Asked if he had spoken to Trump about his trip, Rodman said: ‘Well, I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much happy with the fact that I’m over here trying to accomplish something that we both need.’
A Trump administration official said the president had not authorized Rodman’s trip, saying ‘this is him freelancing’.
The eccentric former ballplayer said he hoped to do ‘something that’s pretty positive’ before he boarded a flight to Pyongyang early Tuesday in a surprise trip that had not been previously announced.
Rodman’s arrival in Pyongyang was relatively low-key and his schedule remained a mystery.
He was met by North Korean vice minister of sports Son Kwang Ho and officials said he was to stay until Saturday.
North Korea has arrested and jailed several US citizens in the past decade, often releasing them only after high-profile visits by current or former US officials.
But efforts to secure the release of Warmbier and three other Americans currently being held by the regime had failed until Tuesday’s surprise announcement.
Tillerson says the State Department continues discussing three other detained Americans with North Korea.
Warmbier spoke to reporters in Pyongyang in February 2016. Secretary of State Tillerson said on Tuesday that North Korea released the jailed US university student
Warmbier has not been seen publicly since this February 2016 press conference. Swedish diplomats who represent America’s interests in North Korea were reportedly barred from visiting him
‘The Department of State continues to have discussions with the DPRK regarding three other US citizens reported detained. Out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family, we have no further comment on Mr. Warmbier,’ Tillerson’s statement said, referencing the initials for the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the country’s official name.
Warmbier, who is from suburban Cincinnati, was sentenced in March 2016 after a televised tearful public confession to trying to steal a propaganda banner.
That was the last time he had been publicly seen or heard from, and Swedish diplomats who represent America’s interests in North Korea were reportedly barred from visiting him.
Warmbier had been on a visit to North Korea on his way for a semester abroad in Hong Kong when the incident occurred on New Year’s Eve in 2015.
North Korean security services spotted Warmbier on CCTV and arrested him on suspicion of spying and ‘crimes against the state’.
The US State Department has repeatedly warned American citizens not to visit North Korea.