North Korea detains University of Virginia student
North Korea announced today that a U.S. college student has been detained for trying to commit a “hostile act” against the country.
The official Korean Central News Agency identified the student as Otto Frederick Warmbier, a junior at the University of Virginia. According to the report, Warmbier entered North Korea as a tourist and intended to “destroy the country’s unity under the U.S. government’s acquiescence and control.”
Warmbier was visiting North Korea on a New Year’s trip organized by Young Pioneer Tours. Gareth Johnson of Young Pioneers told Reuters that Warmbier was detained in Pyongyang on Jan. 2.
The U.S. Embassy in Seoul told The Wall Street Journal that the embassy was aware of Warmbier’s detention.
In a blog post on the Young Pioneer’s website, the organization confirmed that a client of theirs is being detained in North Korea and that the organization is working with the Swedish embassy in Pyongyang and the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs to resolve the issue, since the United States and North Korea do not have formal diplomatic relations.
A spokesperson for the University of Virginia, said the University does not operate study abroad programs in North Korea, but that the University has been in touch with Warmbier’s family.
This is not the first time that North Korea has detained Americans. Last year, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper traveled to North Korea to free two Americans, Matthew Todd Miller and Kenneth Bae, a tourist and missionary, respectively. There was also a high-profile visit by former President Bill Clinton to free two detained American journalists.
The State Department advises all U.S. citizens not to travel to North Korea.