Donald Trump may be able to accept North Korean President Kim Jong Un’s assurances that he was not involved in Otto Warmbier’s death. However, the 22-year-old student’s parents will not be placated so easily.
Otto’s parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, issued a statement following Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un’s second summit in Vietnam. The pair asserted Kim’s government is responsible for “unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity,” and maintained that “Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto,” NBC News reported.
Otto Warmbier visited Pyongyang in January 2016 during a break from his studies at the University of Virginia. He was arrested by the North Korean authorities for taking a propaganda banner from a hotel he was staying at and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
After 17 months, negotiators secured his release and Warmbier was flown back to Cincinnati. His parents had been informed Otto was in a coma, but GQ reported at the time that the situation was far graver. His mother, Cindy recalled how his arms and legs were “totally deformed,” his hair had been shaved off, a feeding tube inserted into his nostrils and, his father noted, “it looked like someone had taken a pair of pliers and re-arranged his bottom teeth.”
Otto would never recover. He died from his injuries and despite exhaustive examinations from medical staff in Cincinnati, no definitive conclusions could be made explaining how his injuries occurred.
During his meeting with Kim Jon Un in Vietnam this week, Trump raised the issue of Otto Warmbier, but accepted Kim’s assurance that the North Korean Premier was not involved in his death. “Some really bad things happened to Otto— some really, really bad things,” Trump said. “But he [Kim] tells me that he didn’t know about it, and I will take him at his word,” the President concluded.
Explaining his decision, Trump added that Kim “knew the case very well but he knew it later.”