American university student Otto Warmbier had planned to stay in North Korea for just five days of sightseeing as a tourist in 2015.
But the 22-year-old student instead served 17 months in detention and was only returned to his family less than a week ago.
When he was released, Otto was found to have suffered severe brain damage. His family believe he was tortured into a coma, the ABC reports.
His parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, announced the devastating news their son has died in an Ohio hospital on Monday afternoon.
“It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20 p.m," a statement released by his parents read.
“It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost — future time that won’t be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds.”
On January 2, 2016, Otto was arrested while he attempted to board a plane out of North Korea, CNN reports.
The North Korean government claimed the student had stolen a political poster from his Pyongyang hotel. Otto was sentenced to 15 years of hard labour and wept during sentencing, declaring: “I have made the worst mistake of my life!”
The student was released to his parents by authorities last week following intervention from US President Donald Trump. But Otto’s parents said their son was in a terrible state when he arrived back home.
“When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13 he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. 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,” the statement continued.
"Unfortunately, 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.”
The family say they will cherish the short 22 years they had with Otto before his tragic death.
“But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched — Wyoming, Ohio, and the University of Virginia — that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family,” the statement finished.
The ABC reports North Korean officials have claimed Otto fell into a coma after taking a sleeping pill.