CINCINNATI, Ohio — Former North Korea detainee and US college student Otto Warmbier is in stable condition but has suffered a “severe neurological injury,” a University of Cincinnati Medical Center spokeswoman said Thursday.
The announcement came shortly after Korea broke its silence on his release.
The 22-year-old University of Virginia student, who is currently in a coma, was freed for humanitarian reasons, according to a one-line report from a North Korean news agency Thursday.
Warmbier was freed earlier this week after being jailed for more than 17 months.
He was found guilty of committing a “hostile act” against North Korea in March 2016 and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.
That was the last time Warmbier was seen publicly — and about the same time he fell into a coma, his parents say they were told. A source close to the family said Warmbier contracted botulism last year.
“Otto is not in great shape right now,” Fred Warmbier, Otto’s Father, told Fox News in an interview Wednesday. “Otto has been terrorized and brutalized for 18 months by a pariah regime in North Korea.”
Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement they learned of their son’s condition a week before his release. They plan to hold a news conference Thursday morning in their home state of Ohio.
Three other US detainees
Warmbier’s release coincided with the arrival of day basketball star Dennis Rodman’s latest visit to North Korea, though Michael Anton, a US national security spokesman, told CNN there is no connection between the two.
When asked by reporters if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea, Rodman said, “that’s not my purpose right now … My purpose is to go over there and try to see if I can keep bringing sports to North Korea.”
The other Americans held by Pyongyang are Kim Sang Duk and Kim Hak-song, academics who worked at the Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, and businessman named Kim Dong Chul.