The company that organized the trip that took U.S. student Otto Warmbier to North Korea announced Monday that they would no longer take Americans to the Hermit Kingdom after the 22-year-old died, days after he was released back to his home country.
“The devastating loss of Otto Warmbier's life has led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists,” the China-based Young Pioneer Tours company wrote on its Facebook page. “There had not been any previous detainment in North Korea that has ended with such tragic finality and we have been struggling to process the result.”
Warmbier died Monday in Ohio, where he had been hospitalized since his June 13 release.
He had been detained in North Korea since January 2016, when he was arrested in Pyongyang for attempting to steal a propaganda poster from a hotel. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and hard labor, according to NPR News.
He was medically evacuated last week and returned to the U.S. in a coma. North Korean officials said he became comatose after he was given a sleeping pill following a botulism diagnosis. Doctors with the University of Cincinnati Health system said last week that they found no evidence that Warmbier had suffered from botulism, but that his condition appeared to stem from a cardiopulmonary arrest.
“The way his detention was handled was appalling, and a tragedy like this must never be repeated,” officials with Young Pioneer Tours said Monday. “The assessment of risk for Americans visiting North Korea has become too high.”
Other high-profile tour operators who take travelers to North Korea also said this week that they are “reviewing” their policies regarding traveling Americans in the wake of Warmbier’s death, The Associated Press reported. Tour operators told the wire service that Americans account for about a fifth of all non-Chinese tourism to North Korea.
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