Otto Warmbier’s father will attend Olympics opening with Vice President Mike Pence


Fred Warmbier, father of Otto Warmbier, holding a press conference in Wyoming while wearing the jacket his son wore when he gave a forced confession in North Korea, June 15, 2017. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

(JTA) — The father of Otto Warmbier, the University of Virginia student imprisoned by North Korea who died after being sent back comatose to the United States, will attend the Olympics Opening Ceremonies as a guest of Vice President Mike Pence.

The Olympics will open in PyeongChang, South Korea on February 9. Pence will lead the U.S. 2018 Winter Olympic delegation in PyeongChang at the end of a five-day trip to Japan and South Korea.  The Washington Post first reported that Fred Warmbier will accompany the vice president at the Olympics.

Pence’s trip is part of a U.S. pressure campaign on North Korea against its nuclear ambitions, according to the newspaper.

Warmbier, 22, a Cincinnati native, was traveling on a student tour of North Korea in early 2016 when he was arrested and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor for stealing a propaganda poster. After international outrage and over a year of imprisonment, North Korea released Warmbier in June, saying his health had deteriorated after a bout of botulism. Warmbier’s doctors said he suffered extensive brain damage. He died June 19, 2017, in Cincinnati.

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The family had hidden Warmbier’s Jewishness during negotiations for his return. Warmbier, whose mother is Jewish, became active at the University of Virginia campus Hillel following a 2014 Birthright trip to Israel.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier attended President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address last week as guests of the president and first lady Melania Trump, where they received a standing ovation during the speech.

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