North Korea sent a detained U.S. college student home in a coma last week, but the reclusive regime is showing no signs of remorse.
North Korea arrested Otto Warmbier, a University of Virginia student who visited the North as a tourist, in January of last year for “hostile acts” against the state. Pyongyang contends Warmbier attempted to pilfer a propaganda poster. He was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in a tearful public trial two months later.
North Korea released Warmbier to the Department of State last week, but the previously healthy young man returned to the U.S. in a coma. North Korea’s explanation for Warmbier’s condition — a rare case of food poisoning and a sleeping pill — is highly questionable as the doctors treating him have found no evidence to support Pyongyang’s assertions.
Warmbier, who was held as a prisoner of war, has suffered “severe injuries to all regions of the brain,” with doctors commenting that his condition could be the result of trauma. Intelligence reports suggest that he may have been beaten repeatedly, a senior U.S. official informed The New York Times. He has been in a coma for over a year, and he remains unresponsive.
North Korea, possibly in response to criticisms and U.S. claims of mistreatment, has doubled down on its assertions that Warmbier was an enemy of the state and not simply a college student on holiday in the wrong place.
Pyongyang insists that Warmbier was “not an ordinary citizen of America” and that he was punished for attempting to overthrow the regime in North Korea. A North Korean official at a meeting in Mongolia made the remarks. The young man’s father has denied the accusations, arguing that the pariah state “brutalized” his son.
Warmbier “committed crimes against the government of DPRK to realize the regime change and the regime collapse of the DPRK,” Kim Kwang-hak, a researcher at the North Korean Foreign Ministry’s Institute for American Studies, said during a fierce discussion with Alexandre Mansourov, a Georgetown University professor who represented the U.S. at the meeting, reports The Wall Street Journal. The exchange suggests that Pyongyang will not back down from its position.
“DPRK will detect and frustrate every anti-DPRK plot of the dishonest hostile elements and ruthlessly punish the criminals and thus reliably defend its state and social system,” North Korean state media reported in May.
It is unclear at this time whether Warmbier will recover from his present condition. Doctors have withheld information on his prospects from the public at the request of the family.
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