Kenneth Bae, a Korean-American missionary who served a 735-day prison sentence after the North Korean government claimed he was part of a Christian plot to overthrow the regime, has called the death of Otto Warmbier a "tragedy" and urged the international community to pray for his family.
Last night, Bae issued a statement expressing his horror over the death of Warmbier, the 22-year-old American recently released from North Korea in a coma and who died Monday.
"I grieve for the family of Otto Warmbier. This is a young man who had so much promise," Bae said. "He was a college student on a journey to see the world. For North Korea to detain him and sentence him to 15 years in prison was an injustice. But for Otto to be returned to the US in the state he was in - and then for him to die because of it - is not only an outrage, but it is a tragedy for his entire family.
"I cannot understand what the Warmbier family is feeling right now. But I mourn with them, and I pray for them. No words can ease this pain, but we can pray for them. It's my hope and prayer that they also know others in America are mourning with them and will not forget their son and brother."
Bae also drew attention to the other Americans currently detained in North Korea; Kim Dong Chul, Tony Kim, Kim Hak-Song - and the Canadian pastor Hyeon Soo Lim.
"But there are certainly many other people living without freedom in the country of 24 million people - enduring horrible circumstances and forced labor - and we do not even know their names," Bae said. "We plead with the US government, the international community, and leadership in North Korea to value human lives. Every life is important - Otto's life, lives of the American detainees, and the lives of each person in North Korea."
As a Christian, Bae said he believes in acting justly and having mercy on the innocent.
"Although we don't know everything about life in North Korea, this much is sure: innocent people like Otto are suffering," he said. "I pray that these innocent people suffering in North Korea are not forgotten in this high-stakes game of weapons, sanctions, and international diplomacy."
Bae urged the internatinoal community to join him in "prayer and be a voice for the innocent. Please join me in praying for Otto's family. This did not have to happen and should never happen again."
As reported, Warmbier's death on Monday was confirmed by his parents Fred and Cindy Warmbier. In a statement, they blamed his death on the treatment he had received at the hands of North Korea, where he had spent the last 17 months in prison for trying to remove a propaganda poster from his hotel.
After arriving back in the US, it was revealed that the University of Virginia student had suffered extensive brain loss and was unable to communicate. Doctors said he had "extensive loss of brain tissue in all regions of his brain," most likely caused by cardiopulmonary arrest that cut off the blood supply to his brain.
North Korean authorities blamed his condition on botulism and said they had freed him on "humanitarian grounds"; however, his family has refused to accept such an explanation.
"The awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today," Fred and Cindy Warmbier said in a statement.
They added that their son had "completed his journey home" and "was at peace" when he died.
"When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13, he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands," the couple wrote. "He looked very uncomfortable - almost anguished. 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."
Warmbier was initially detained at the Pyongyang airport in early January 2016, charged with a "hostile act" against the country's authoritarian government and convicted less than two months later after he delivered a televised confession. His trial lasted one hour.
President Donald Trump offered condolences to the Warmbier family in a statement, saying that "Otto's fate deepens my Administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency."
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said in a statement that "countless innocent men and women have died at the hands of the North Korean criminals, but the singular case of Otto Warmbier touches the American heart like no other."