US college student released by North Korea home, but in coma

Owen Stevens
June 14, 2017

North Korean officials told Mr Warmbier's family he fell ill from botulism after his trial then went into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.

Former United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson, who has been trying to help secure Warmbier's release, said North Korea's health system is "very primitive", and the circumstances surrounding the student's condition are murky.

Warmbier's parents hadn't heard from or seen him since he was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in March of last year for attempting to steal a propaganda poster at the end of a five-day tour of North Korea.

His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, said: "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime".

Out of respect for the privacy of Mr. Warmbier and his family, we have no further comment on Mr. Warmbier.

Tillerson said the State Department secured his release at Trump's direction, and a spokeswoman was firm in saying Rodman's trip had nothing to do with Warmbier's release.

Leigh also said North Korea security claimed he was spying on behalf of U.S. President Donald Trump, and that he had been sent to assassinate Kim Jong Un.

University of Virginia president Teresa Sullivan said the whole UVA community was relieved to learn of Warmbier's release but was "deeply concerned and saddened to learn from his family that he is in a coma".

Warmbier's release came on the back of a rare diplomatic intervention in the nuclear-armed state, after the US State Department's special envoy on North Korea, Joseph Yun, travelled to Pyongyang to demand his freedom on "humanitarian grounds". Rob Portman, who represents Warmbier's home state of Ohio.

US college student released by North Korea home, but in coma

"If his parents choose to address it [his health], they are more than welcome to do so", she said.

Any visit to North Korea by a high-profile American is a political minefield.

In 2014, Rodman arranged a basketball game with other former NBA players and North Koreans and regaled leader Kim with a rendition of "Happy Birthday". Speaking to reporters in Beijing before his arrival in Pyongyang on Tuesday, he said that the issue of several Americans detained by North Korea is "not my goal right now".

Warmbier was to have graduated last month had he not been detained. Former NBA basketball star Dennis Rodman, left, towers over North Korean children during his visit to Mangyongdae, the birth place of late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung on Wednesday, June 14, 2017, in Pyongyang, North Korea.

North Korean officials met the American delegation in Pyongyang, the State Department said.

Mr Warmbier's parents, Fred and Cindy, have confirmed their son is in a coma and was being flown home to OH on a medevac flight.

The sponsorship details were not known but PotCoin said in a press statement that Rodman would provide more information about his trip upon returning to the United States. For months, people weren't talking about Warmbier's situation for fear that North Korea would hurt or kill him. In March last year, he was sentenced to 15 years hard labor. "Since we also have our citizens detained in the North. we are putting pressure on the North to free them through various channels", he said, vowing "utmost efforts".

State Department officials said Warmbier's release followed secret talks between US and North Korean diplomats. During this meeting, Yun learned about Warmbier's medical condition, the State Department said.

A team was dispatched to Pyongyang and the sick University of Virginia student was handed over to USA officials.

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