A 22-year-old American college student has been released from North Korea after 17 months of detainment. Three other Americans still remain imprisoned by Kim Jong Un’s dictatorial regime.
Otto Warmbier was taken into custody on January 2, 2016. At the time, he appeared healthy and conscious. This week, when Pyongyang released him from prison, Warmbier was in a coma. According to Warmbier’s family, Otto was stricken with botulism two months after his detention. He has been in a coma ever since.
"Otto has left North Korea. He is on Medivac flight on his way home. Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016. We learned of this only one week ago," parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier explained in an emotional statement. "We want the world to know how we and our son have been brutalized and terrorized by the pariah regime in North Korean. We are so grateful that he will finally be with people who love him."
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed the University of Virginia student’s release in a statement posted Tuesday.
JUST IN: U.S. student Otto Warmbier has been released from North Korea, according to Sec. of State Tillerson pic.twitter.com/Z1nciOEdTU— NBC News (@NBCNews) June 13, 2017
Asking for the press and public to respect the Warmbier family's privacy, Tillerson made sure to highlight the continued detention of three other American captives imprisoned by the regime on trumped-up charges.
If Warmbier’s story is any indication, North Korea has no problem jailing foreigners, particularly Westerners, for the most absurd reasons imaginable.
As The Daily Wire reported, Warmbier was arrested during a trip organized by a Chinese tour company. He was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for taking down a North Korean propaganda poster from the hotel at which he was staying. At the time, he was just a 21-year-old student from the University of Virginia.
For the North Koreans, "taking down a political slogan" from the Yanggakdo International Hotel in North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang was a punishable offense.
Under extreme duress, Warmbier "confessed" to his supposed "crime."
"I committed the crime of taking down a political slogan from the staff holding area of the Yanggakdo International Hotel," said Warmbier, reading from for a pre-scripted statement. "I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country." He added:
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!
Heavily peppered with hyperbolic adjectives and adverbs, the statement sounded as if had been written by a North Korean propagandist. The isolated country, prone to paranoia, likely forced Warmbier to parrot the fictitious narrative of being "lured by the United States administration to commit a crime" in North Korea. In fact, the state officials qualified Warmbier’s "confession" with more bizarre conspiracy theories. "The North Korean government alleges Warmbier was encouraged to commit the 'hostile act' by a purported member of an Ohio church, a secretive university organization and even the CIA," reported CNN.
The cult mindset inside the hermit kingdom considers "political slogans" and state propaganda messaging tantamount to religious iconography. In order to maintain totalitarian control, the North Korean regime has marked the sacred cows of crappy pro-government posters as untouchable, even holy. In their eyes, Warmbier wasn’t just a criminal, but a heretic deserving of extreme punishment.
It’s unclear if Warmbier will ever regain consciousness, and wake up from his coma, but fortunately he’s almost back on American soil.