How Otto Warmbier Made It Out Of North Korea


Seventeen months ago, just after dawn on Jan. 2, 2016, 21-year-old University of Virginia undergrad Otto Warmbier arrived at the airport in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea. He had spent five days on an organized tour of the authoritarian state with a group called Young Pioneer Tours, which advertises its destinations as places “your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

He was slated to fly from Pyongyang to Beijing and then down to Hong Kong, where he would meet his classmates. But he never arrived. As Warmbier was checking into his flight, he was led away by two North Korean officials. Onboard the plane, a North Korean official told one of his tour guides that Warmbier was “very sick and [had] been taken to the hospital,” and that he would be released “tomorrow… or next week.”

He had not been taken to the hospital: he had been arrested…

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