North Korea has released American college student Otto Warmbier, who was jailed in that country and sentenced to hard labor after going on a tour there, according to Fox News.
However, there are reports – unconfirmed – that the American student has been in a coma for a year. His parents told The Washington Post that he was medically evacuated from North Korea.
According to Newsweek, “Warmbier allegedly came down with a case of botulism after his trial, and was given a sleeping pill from which he never woke up.”
The report of Warmbier’s release came from U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who announced that Warmbier had been released.
The surprise release of the American college student comes as tensions between the United States and North Korea had appeared to be growing. The release comes as basketball star Dennis Rodman, a former star on Donald Trump’s Apprentice program, was headed to North Korea for a visit, supposedly landing June 13, according to CNN.
Although there is no concrete evidence that Rodman had anything to do with Warmbier’s release at this point, Noon in Korea, a Korean news site, reported on Twitter, “Some SKoreans think Rodman may try to secure release of 4 US hostages being held in NK: Otto Warmbier/ Kim Hak Song/Tony Kim & Kim Dong Chul.”
The Washington Post also confirmed that Warmbier was being released, per Tillerson.
Warmbier is a former University of Virginia college student who was sentenced to 15 years hard labor in North Korea after he was accused of ripping down a ropaganda poster while on a tour to the country.
He was accused of subversive acts against North Korea, and was taken into custody while trying to leave North Korea at the Pyongyang Sunan International Airport, NPR reports. His jailing occurred in 2016.
The North Korean government said Warmbier, who was on a trip with the Young Pioneer Tours company, tore down a propaganda poster at the Yanggakdo International Hotel, where he and about 100 other westerners were staying.
The government said the crime was act “of hostility against the state” and accused him of being affiliated with spies.
The North Koreans later paraded Warmbier in front of the television cameras using him as a propaganda tool. “I never, never should have allowed myself to be lured by the United States administration to commit a crime in this country, 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,” he said under obvious duress from the North Korean government.
The tour company and U.S. government had worked diligently to obtain Warmbier’s release.
Warmbier is not the only American said to have vanished in North Korea, however. A Brigham Young University student, David Sneddon, has been missing since 2004 and may still be alive in North Korea where he was abducted and made to teach Kim Jong-un English, reports from Japanese media said in 2016. The U.S. State Department has launched an active search for Sneddon.
Sneddon vanished in China while studying in Beijing. His parents were told he drowned while hiking, but they have never believed that account. Some reports allege that Sneddon is an English tutor in North Korea who was made to tutor the Korean dictator when he was a child.
You can read more about Otto Warmbier here;