President Donald Trump celebrated North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's first public appearance after days of speculation about his health. Trump's tweet instantly sparked Otto Warmbier's name to appear on Twitter's trends as Trump critics sought to remind the president of Warmbier's death. In 2017, North Korea returned Warmbier to the U.S. in a vegetative state after 17 months of captivity. He died in June 2017, six days after he returned to Cincinnati.
Late Friday, North Korean state media claimed Kim made his first public appearance since April 11 by attending a May Day ceremony to open a fertilizer factory in the city of Sunchon. The Korean Central News Agency also issued released photos, including a picture of Kim sitting under a banner with the date May 1, 2020 on it. "I, for one, am glad to see he is back, and well!" Trump wrote on Twitter Saturday.
This was Kim's first public appearance since he attended a politburo meeting with other Workers' Party leaders. Four days later, he missed an event marking the birth of his grandfather, North Korea's founder Kim Il-sung, which instantly sparked international speculation about his health. Rumors that Kim underwent a cardiovascular system procedure on April 12 surfaced, and sources told Reuters China sent officials and doctors to advise on Kim's condition. There were rumors Kim was brain dead or even deceased.
Otto Warmbier would like a word https://t.co/6cX0Vnlyus— Bradley P. Moss (@BradMossEsq) May 2, 2020
However, South Korean officials downplayed reports Kim was unwell. On Monday, Trump said he had a "very good idea" about Kim's health, but could not say much. "I just wish him well... I hope he's fine," Trump said at the time. "I do know how he's doing, relatively speaking. We will see. You will probably be hearing in the not-too-distant future."
Imagine poor Otto Warmbier’s parents having to read this. https://t.co/Ka3ra7oXvP— Jason (@my_good_karma) May 2, 2020
Trump, who is the first sitting U.S. president to meet with a North Korean leader, has often been criticized for praising Kim. In March 2019, Warmbier's family blasted Trump for agreeing with Kim, who claimed he was not aware of Warmbier's mistreatment while imprisoned by Pyongyang. During a summit in Vietnam, Trump said he did not hold Kim personally responsible for Warmbier's death.
@realDonaldTrump already forgot about him.— MsTeacher (@MsTeacher) May 2, 2020
"We have been respectful during this summit process," Warmbier's family said at the time. "Now we must speak out. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto. Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity. No excuses or lavish praise can change that. Thank you."
He’ll make fun of his political opponents for contracting a deadly disease, but god forbid he harbor any ill will for a man who has thrown millions of people into concentration camp’s and kills journalists and political dissidents.— Jacob Baum 🏳️🌈✡️ (@JacobAndrewBaum) May 2, 2020
I don’t think Otto Warmbier would agree. https://t.co/sI7WR5IFzs
Trump later defended himself on Twitter at the time. "Of course I hold North Korea responsible for Otto's mistreatment and death," he tweeted. "Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain. Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future. I love Otto and think of him often!"
I doubt Otto Warmbier's family feels the same way.— Peggy T (@peggyturni) May 3, 2020
Your man Trump shows more concern 4 a murderous dictator than a dead young American killed by Kim or the 66,765 Americans killed by Trump's own dereliction of duty.
.@RepRossSpano .@marcorubio .@SenRickScott #GOPBetrayedAmerica https://t.co/ZtGOfIggtS
Warmbier was a University of Virginia student who was taken into custody by North Korea in January 2016 as he was leaving a sightseeing tour. North Korea held him captive until June 2017, when he was finally released to the U.S. He returned to Cincinnati in a vegetative state and died in June 2019, days after the Trump administration got him released, notes CNN. He was 22. His family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the North Korean government and was awarded more than $500 million.
Of course you are.— Jo (@JoJoFromJerz) May 2, 2020
The man who is responsible for the murder, enslavement, torture and imprisonment of his people (and his own family), is alive! Yay!
May he send you many giant love letters.
I’m sure the parents of Otto Warmbier will join you in a toast to their son’s murderer.