‘They have crossed a line with my son’: Father of US student detained by North Korea speaks out

Fred Warmbier
Fred Warmbier holds a press conference in the jacket his son stood trial in in North Korea. CNN

The father of Otto Warmbier, the US student detained by North Korea and medically evacuated to his family in a coma, gave a press conference on Thursday morning and called for Kim Jong Un’s regime to be held responsible.

Otto Warmbier, who was detained for attempting to steal a propaganda banner from a hotel in North Korea, came back home on Tuesday in “bad shape,” having been in a coma since shortly after his trial.

The Warmbier family told The Washington Post’s Anna Fifield that the North Koreans told them Otto was stricken with botulism after his trial, took a sleeping pill, and had not woken up since. But now, doctors are saying it looks more like a “severe neurological injury.”

Wearing the jacket his son stood trial in, Fred Warmbier addressed a crowd in Cincinnati on Thursday and dispelled some of the myths around his son’s release.

“Dennis Rodman had nothing to do with Otto,” said Warmbier, referencing the high-profile trip the former NBA superstar to North Korea took the same day Otto was released. “It’s a diversion … this is all planned.”

Instead, he said, Otto’s release stemmed from the work of US diplomats in the State Department.

“Last evening we received a very nice phone call from President Trump who told us that Secretary of State Tillerson worked hard to help bring Otto home. We are extremely grateful for their efforts and concern,” Warmbier said.

Warmbier also expressed dissatisfaction with the “pariah regime in North Korea” that “terrorised and brutalized” Otto for 18 months in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson.

“They’re brutal. There’s no sense to anything here,” he told Carlson. “They have crossed a line with my son, Otto.”

In Cincinnati, Warmbier criticised the world’s approach to North Korea.

“I don’t see a tough approach to North Korea. They’re still able to take Americans hostage and abuse them. They’re still able to be terrorists in the world,” he said.

“It started with prisoners of the Korean war, it extended to the USS Pueblo, and now it extended to my son Otto,” he added, referencing North Korea’s 1968 capture of 83 US Navy sailors and their subsequent torture and captivity.

Warmbier expressed mixed feelings about his son being home.

“I would like to highlight this morning the bittersweet feeling that my family has. Relief that Otto is now home in the arms of those who love him, and anger that he was so brutally treated for so long.”

NOW WATCH: IAN BREMMER ON NORTH KOREA: Trump could either start a war or win a Nobel Peace Prize