USA college student released by North Korea home, but in coma

South Korea on Wednesday welcomed the release of an American college student long detained in North Korea and vowed efforts to free its own citizens held in the communist country.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced that the State Department had secured Warmbier’s release at the direction of the president.

Warmbier is now on his way home to OH, with a State Department representative, to be reunited with his family. He has not been seen in public since he was sentenced in March 2016.

Otto Warmbier had been in North Korea for a brief time over New Year’s on a group tour, while on his way to Hong Kong for a financial course he was to take as part of his undergraduate studies.

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He was placed into an ambulance bound for the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where a hospital spokeswoman said he would receive treatment.

Tillerson called Trump at 8:35 a.m. Tuesday to inform him that Warmbier was on an airplane en route to the United States, an official said. USA officials last had consular access to Warmbier on March 2, 2016, through the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, Nauert said.

Mr Tillerson told the Senate foreign relations committee yesterday that it was time for the USA to work with other nations to deny the North access to supplies such as oil, amid fears that the regime is making progress toward a ballistic missile that could hit America.

But amid the relief, there are also new questions about what happened to him: How did a healthy 22-year-old man fall into such a deep coma? In his memoir Not Forgotten, missionary Kenneth Bae, who was imprisoned for more than two years, wrote of daily interrogations “from 8 in the morning until 10 or 11 o’clock at night, every day for four weeks”.

The curious timing of Warmbier’s return to Cincinnati is nearly as startling as Rodman’s continued flirtation with Kim and his Communist regime.

Otto Warmbier, a USA university student held captive in North Korea for 17 months, has been released, but a former US official said on Tuesday he is in a coma and in urgent need of medical care.

Warmbier’s release came during a visit to North Korea by former National Basketball Association star Dennis Rodman, one of few people to have met both North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Donald Trump, who was Rodman’s boss on “Celebrity Apprentice“. Yun demanded his release and North Korea complied on Tuesday, according to the State Department. His parents say he’s in a coma.

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Republican Senator Rob Portman says North Korea should be “universally condemned for its abhorrent behavior”.

There was no immediate confirmation from US officials of North Korea’s description of his illness.

NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman landed in North Korea.

Yun insisted on Warmbier’s immediate release on humanitarian grounds, officials said, and the North Koreans agreed.

The last time Rodman visited North Korea, he delighted the country’s young ruler with a rendition of “Happy Birthday”, suffered an angry meltdown on CNN while defending his trip, and spent time at a rehab facility. He was evacuated on Tuesday.

He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

Seoul said last month that it will flexibly resume civilian inter-Korean exchanges to an extent that the move does not compromise the global sanctions regime.

University President Teresa Sullivan said in a statement that the school is relieved to hear Warmbier was released, but is concerned about his condition. “We expect there will be a detailed description of the release through the diplomatic channel (with the US)”, Lee Duk-haeng, spokesman at the Ministry of Unification, said in a press briefing. The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported his arrest for “hostile acts” toward the state the following day, but offered no details about his age, occupation or alleged crime.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family as they continue to battle for Otto’s life”.

“Sadly, he is in a coma and we have been told he has been in that condition since March of 2016”, Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.

“We strongly suggest that Americans do not go to North Korea“, Nauert said. ‘The journey for them has been very hard, to say the least, and they still need our support and love’. The State Department would not comment on Warmbier’s condition, citing privacy concerns.

But the important thing in the immediate future is Mr. Warmbier’s health.

When asked if he would bring up the cases of Warmbier and three other Americans detained in North Korea, Rodman told reporters, “That’s not my objective right now”.

That was used as evidence in his hour-long trial, during which North Korea accused him of committing “hostile acts” against the regime at the urging of a purported member of a church in his home state of OH, a secretive university organization and the Central Intelligence Agency. A team was dispatched to Pyongyang and the sick University of Virginia student was handed over to USA officials.

Before his trial, Warmbier had said he tried to steal a propaganda banner as a trophy for an acquaintance who wanted to hang it in her church.