As doctors continue treating his medical condition, a new video of Otto Warmbier in North Korea before his detention was released on Friday by his family. The 22-year-old student, who was imprisoned in North Korea for 17 months, was released back into American custody on Tuesday after falling into a coma, although doctors dispute North Korea's claim that it was due to botulism.
The video, which his brother Austin Warmbier originally shared with their hometown ABC affiliate station WCPO, shows Warmbier during one of his last moments of freedom. Pictured in the 30 second clip are presumably a few other members of the tour group that Warmbier was visiting the country with, as well as a few local children, who all threw snowballs at the camera while smiling and laughing together. "This is the Otto I know and love," Austin told WCPO. "This is my brother."
Warmbier was arrested at the airport while trying to leave the country, just a few days after the video was taken. He was detained by North Korean police for allegedly stealing a political propaganda poster from his hotel, though the DPRK's evidence for the crime was nothing more than a blurry video that never showed the suspect's face. During his trial, which lasted less than an hour, Warmbier tearfully confessed to the crime and begged for forgiveness from the North Korean people.
In a tearful press conference on Thursday, Warmbier's father Fred told reporters that he was "proud" of his son. "I'm proud of Otto, and the courage he showed by going to North Korea and having that adventurous side to him," he said. "So the fact that he was taken and treated this way is horrible, and it's tough to process. But we're tremendously proud of him. So we're looking to the future."
Warmbier is currently in treatment at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where doctors have described his condition as "unresponsive wakefulness." The 22-year-old can occasionally open his eyes and blink, but has no language recognition or response to verbal commands. Warmbier's medical team briefed the press on his condition Thursday, stating that he had lost an extensive volume of brain tissue, inconsistent with either trauma or the official North Korean story of botulism and a sleeping pill.
"We have no certifiable knowledge of the cause or circumstances of his neurological injuries," Dr. Daniel Kanter, professor of neurology and director of the Neurocritical Care Program at the University of Cincinnati, said at the press conference. "This pattern of brain injury is usually seen as result of cardiopulmonary arrest where blood supply to (the) brain is inadequate for a period of time, resulting in the death of brain tissue."
There's no word yet on Warmbier's prognosis and whether he will ever return to the life he once had, but his family seems intent on letting the world know what he was like before his detention — as the laughing, joyful young man he was in the video.