Fred Warmbier — whose 22-year-old son, Otto Warmbier, died after being imprisoned in North Korea — will join Vice President Mike Pence at the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Winter Olympics on Friday, in Pyeongchang, South Korea, The Associated Press reported Monday.
Pence will attend the ceremony as part of a five-day tour of Asia.
What is the plan for the Olympics?
In January, officials from North Korea and South Korea announced that the two countries would march under a unified flag at the Olympics. The countries will also share a women’s field hockey team, and North Korea will send a delegation of cheerleaders, artists, and Taekwondo athletes. Before the agreement, North Korea had not been included in the Olympics.
As a result of North Korean presence at the Olympics, Pence’s appearance is an effort to “keep up pressure to halt [North Korea’s] nuclear ambitions.”
Honored that Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, will join us at @pyeongchang2018 in S Korea. He & his wife remind the world of the atrocities happening in N Korea. As @POTUS made clear at the #SOTU, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory w/ American resolve https://t.co/LlPMt6SvMh
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) February 5, 2018
Warmbier and his wife Cindy sat with First Lady Melania Trump at President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week.
During the address, Trump called North Korea a “cruel dictatorship” with “depraved character,” and that “no regime has oppressed its own citizens more totally or brutally.”
“North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland,” he added. “We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.”
Trump addressed the Warmbiers directly, calling them “powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world,” whose “strength inspires us all.”
The president pledged “to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.”
What did Otto Warmbier do?
Otto Warmbier, a student at the University of Virginia who was studying abroad in Asia, visited North Korea on a five-day New Year’s tour that included 10 other Americans. North Korean officials accused the university student of trying to steal a propaganda poster, a serious crime in the Hermit Kingdom. He was arrested in January 2016, convicted of crimes against the state in March 2016, and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
Roughly a month after sentencing, he suffered a debilitating brain injury.
In June 2017, North Korea flew the university student back to the U.S. He was in a vegetative state due to “extensive brain damage following interrupted blood flow and a lack of oxygen.”
North Korean officials have denied allegations that the Otto Warmbier was abused in custody, blaming his condition on sleeping pills and botulism.