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North Korea invoiced US $2M for Otto Warmbier’s hospital care before release: report

Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student who was detained in North Korea more than a year and a half, died on June 19, 2017. A federal judge in Washington awarded his family $500 million in damanges. (Guo Yina/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)
April 25, 2019

North Korea reportedly demanded the U.S. foot a $2 million medical bill for imprisoned American student Otto Warmbier before his release to the U.S. in 2017, it was revealed Thursday.

Warmbier had been detained and imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months, was sent home in a coma after diplomatic negotiations and ultimately died from lack of oxygen and blood to the brain. His family has said he was tortured while imprisoned there.

The medical invoice was first reported Thursday by the Washington Post, which cited two people familiar with the situation who spoke anonymously.

North Korea reportedly demanded that the U.S. would promise to pay the bill before they would release Warmbier to be flown home, the Post reported. While the U.S. envoy signed an agreement to pay the bill, according to those sources, it remains unclear if the bill has been paid or not, or whether or not President Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have ever discussed the situation at either of their two summits.

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The White House would not comment to the Post about the invoice.

Warmbier, a University of Virginia undergrad student, was medically evacuated from North Korea and returned to the United States in June 2017 in a coma. He died not long after, on June 19.

His death was due to an unknown injury that doctors said took place at least a year prior, when he would have been in North Korea.

Warmbier had been in a coma for 15 of the 17 months he was detained in North Korea.

Doctors at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center said that Warmbier was “in a state of unresponsive wakefulness” when he arrived home and had suffered severe brain injury.

Warmbier was medically evacuated from North Korea through the efforts of then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Trump Administration. He arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 13, 2017.

The student had been serving a 15-year prison term with hard labor for alleged anti-state acts.

Warmbier was detained in January 2016 in Pyongyang on his way home from North Korea. North Korean officials said they had footage of him trying to steal a political banner that was hanging on the wall in his hotel, according to a report.

The undergrad student was found guilty during a one-hour trial in North Korea’s Supreme Court.

Warmbier’s parents have come out and said their son was the victim of North Korean brutality and terrorism, and that when he returned home, he was “blind and deaf,” and “it looked like someone had taken a pliers and rearranged his bottom teeth.”

They have since won a $500 million wrongful death lawsuit against North Korea, which the country is unlikely to pay.