Travel company stops American visits to North Korea after death of Otto Warmbier

The travel agency that took US student Otto Warmbier to North Korea has confirmed it will no longer be organising tours to the country for American citizens.

The 22-year-old died on Monday after he had been held in detention in Pyongyang and subjected to hard labour for more than fifteen months.

He had been arrested in January 2016 for attempting to steal a political propaganda poster from a hotel and was originally sentenced to fifteen years in prison.

Young Pioneer Tours, based in mainland China, said it was “reeling with the shock of a young man’s life taken well before his time” and admitted it “was struggling to process the result.”

Specialising in trips to North Korea since 2008, the company prides itself on providing “budget travel to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

Warmbier was returned to the United States on June 13 in a coma, a condition he was believed to have been in since March last year.

He was reunited with his family in Cincinnati and his parents confirmed that he died in hospital on Monday afternoon.

Fred and Cindy Warmbier said: “Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day, the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home, and we believe he could sense that.

“The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.”

Young Pioneer Tours expressed their “deepest sympathies” to Warmbier and his family and acknowledged that the risk to Americans visiting North Korea has now become too high.

A statement issued by the company said: “The devastating loss of Otto Warmbier’s life has led us to reconsider our position on accepting American tourists.

“The way his detention was handled was appalling, and a tragedy like this must never be repeated.

“We will no longer be organising tours for US citizens to North Korea.”

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