North Korea arrested an Ohio student who was traveling through the country for committing a “hostile act,” the state’s news agency announced Friday.
Pyongyang’s Korean Central News Agency announced the arrest of Otto Frederick Warmbier, a third-year student at the University of Virginia.
Warmbier was taken into custody for “perpetrating a hostile act against the DPRK after entering it under the guise of a tourism for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity with the tacit connivance of the US government and under its manipulation,” the news agency said.
Warmbier was traveling with China-based tour company Young Pioneer Tours on a five-day trip.
The company said Warmbier’s family was notified and are working with the Swedish Embassy, which represents American interests in North Korea, to try to have him released.
Warmbier has been in custody since January 2.
While Americans have been free to go to North Korea since 2010, the State Department has strongly warned Americans against traveling to North Korea.
“Do not assume that joining a group tour or using a tour guide will prevent North Korean authorities from detaining you or arresting you,” the travel warning says. “Efforts by private tour operators to prevent or resolve past detentions of US citizens in the DPRK have not succeeded in gaining their release.”
Young Pioneer Tours’ website sends the opposite message, however.
“Despite what you may hear, North Korea is probably one of the safest places on Earth to visit,” the company says. “Tourism is very welcomed in North Korea, thus tourists are cherished and well taken care of. We have never felt suspicious or threatened at any time.”
Last week, CNN reported that another American, Kim Dong Chul, was detained in North Korea on spying charges but the State Department has not confirmed that report.