Even as the isolated autocrat-in-Communist-clothing nation of North Korea engages in loud saber-rattling with its neighbors and the United States, a smaller and more personal struggle with that regime has come to a subdued conclusion. Otto Warmbier, an American College Student and tourist in North Korea who was arrested by local authorities last year for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster in the hotel he was staying at, and then sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, has finally come home after 17 months of detention. And it may well have been just in time too, as the once healthy and fit twenty-something youth has been in a coma for well over a year.

Kangaroo court

Sources close to Otto Warmbier’s family noted that the college student was said to have contracted the potentially fatal illness of botulism, caused by a toxic bacteria. The onset of his condition was estimated to be shortly after a televised court confession wherein Warmbier claimed “manipulation” by the US government had urged him to remove the propaganda poster, which is tantamount to the criminal charge of “hostile acts against the DPRK state”. He was reputedly caught in the act by security cameras in the Yanggakdo International Hotel in Pyongyang where he was staying as part of an independent youth tour.

A report by North Korean medical officials stated that Warmbier went comatose after his botulism infection was aggravated by his taking of a sleeping pill, according to his parents.

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This supposedly took place after his sentencing to hard labor two months after his arrest. His condition had been hard to determine however owing to his being kept away from the public eye. It was only in a diplomatic meeting held last week regarding Warmbier and three other American prisoners in North Korea that the truth about his comatose state was revealed.

Medical evacuation

Once word reached US President Donald Trump according to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the release of Otto Warmbier from North Korean custody was secured. The young tourist was then medically evacuated on June 13 and taken back to his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Warmbier is now currently confined at University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where the true extent of his condition and the veracity of the account from North Korea can be checked.

Contrary to popular misconception, the release of Warmbier from North Korea is not in any way connected to the latest visit of former NBA player Dennis Rodman to the same country for a four-day visit with the country’s leader Kim Jong-Un. This is simply another of Rodman’s private initiatives to promote basketball among North Koreans, being one of the most favored American visitors of former leader Kim Jong-Il.