On January 2nd one of our customers, Otto Warmbier, was detained at Pyongyang Airport. He was detained as the last person to go through customs. Our guide was informed by an airport official that he had been taken to hospital. Our guide attempted to go back to see him, but was unable to as she had been ushered through immigration by airport staff.
We were able to get a message through to our group who were taking the train out on the same day that Otto was still in Pyongyang. YPT CEO Gareth Johnson remained in the country, alone, to try and find out what the situation was as we felt this was the right thing to do. It was during this time that it was discovered that there had been an incident. Gareth remained in Pyongyang for a few days and when it became apparent that nothing would be achieved in country, he returned to China.
For many reasons, most specifically the interests of Otto, his family, and ensuring a speedy return home we are extremely limited with regards to what we are able to say about the matter.
We contacted Otto’s family to let them know what the situation was. We then reached out to the embassy of Sweden (who look after American consular interests in North Korea), and on the same day were also in contact with the US Department of State. From then until now we have worked closely with his family, the embassy, and the Department of State about how to proceed with things.
People have asked, or questioned why we have not until now made this public in the interests of guests security, or openness. Our primary concern throughout this has been to follow the instructions laid down to us by relevant agencies and to do what was in the best interests of Otto and his family.
During eight years running tours into the country, and many other countries this is the first incident of its kind to ever occur on one of our trips. Whilst the DPRK may be unique and at times controversial destination, all guests are warned about the dangers of the country, and we feel that our record of one detainment from 7000 people in eight years supports this. As of now we are continuing to run tours as normal.