The tour company with which Otto Warmbier traveled to North Korea says it will no longer accept American bookings following the death Monday of the 22-year-old University of Virginia student who was imprisoned by the communist state for more than a year and spent much of that time in a coma.
“The devastating loss of Otto Warmbier's life has led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists,” Young Pioneers, the Xian, China-based tour group, said in a statement on its website. “There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality and we have been struggling to process the result. Now, the assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high.”
As we reported Monday, Warmbier’s family announced his death just days after he returned to Ohio in a coma from North Korea. North Korean officials had told his parents that Warmbier was stricken with botulism soon after he was sentenced to 15 years in prison in March 2016 for stealing a propaganda sign from his hotel. The officials said Warmbier was administered a sleeping pill following which he fell into a coma. He had not been seen in public since his sentencing and his parents learned about his medical condition last week, days before he was allowed to come home. Officials at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where he was taken upon his return from North Korea, said last week that Warmbier exhibited no signs of botulism, noting his injuries were consistent with “cardiopulmonary arrest, where the blood supply to the brain is inadequate for a period of time, resulting in the death of brain tissue.” Fred Warmbier, Warmbier’s father, said last week he did not believe the North Korean version of events, adding his son had become “fodder” for the regime.