North Korea arrests American student for ‘hostile act’

Updated 6:26 AM EST, Sat January 23, 2016
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 02:  A national flag waves on Parliament roof on April 2, 2011 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea and the population is about 2,500,000.  (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
PYONGYANG, NORTH KOREA - APRIL 02: A national flag waves on Parliament roof on April 2, 2011 in Pyongyang, North Korea. Pyongyang is the capital city of North Korea and the population is about 2,500,000. (Photo by Feng Li/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Feng Li/Getty Images/file
Now playing
02:26
U.S. student arrested in North Korea
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:35
Photos show N. Korea improving nuclear facility
PHOTO: KCTV
Now playing
02:06
North Korea shakes up its military leadership
PHOTO: CNN
Now playing
02:51
CNN reporter's surreal journey inside N. Korea
Hyon Song-Wol (C), the leader of North Korea
Hyon Song-Wol (C), the leader of North Korea's popular Moranbong band, arrives at Seoul station in Seoul on January 21, 2018 before boarding a train bound for the eastern city of Gangneung. North Korean delegates arrived in Seoul on January 21 on their way to inspect venues and prepare cultural performances for next month's Winter Olympics, in the first visit by Pyongyang officials to the South for four years. / AFP PHOTO / KOREA POOL / - / South Korea OUT (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: -/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:44
Who is North Korean pop star Hyon Song Wol?
north korea kim jung un new year speech hancocks lklv_00005209.jpg
north korea kim jung un new year speech hancocks lklv_00005209.jpg
PHOTO: Korean Central TV
Now playing
02:20
Kim Jong Un delivers New Year's address
Now playing
00:49
North Korea's largest textile factory
Now playing
00:51
Communal living in Pyongyang
Now playing
01:01
A glimpse of life in Pyongyang
This undated picture released from North Korea
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on September 16, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (R) inspecting a launching drill of the medium-and-long range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 at an undisclosed location. Kim vowed to complete North Korea's nuclear force despite sanctions, saying the final goal of his country's weapons development is "equilibrium of real force" with the United States, state media reported on September 16. NK leadership watch says: Kim Jong Un watches a missile drill on September 15, 2017. Also in attendance behind him are Kim Jong Sik and Ri Pyong Chol (Photo: KCNA).
PHOTO: STR/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
02:33
Inside story of N. Korean smuggler's paradise
Now playing
00:56
The home of a North Korean Workers' Party member
A North Korean defector darts across the DMZ dividing the two Koreas in this screenshot of handout video provided by the United Nations Command.
A North Korean defector darts across the DMZ dividing the two Koreas in this screenshot of handout video provided by the United Nations Command.
PHOTO: United Nations Command
Now playing
03:05
Video shows North Korean defector's escape
North Korean soldiers (R) look at the South side while US Vice President Mike Pence (not pictured) visits the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on April 17, 2017.
Pence arrived at the gateway to the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas, in a show of US resolve a day after North Korea failed in its attempt to test another missile. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je        (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
North Korean soldiers (R) look at the South side while US Vice President Mike Pence (not pictured) visits the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) on the border between North and South Korea on April 17, 2017. Pence arrived at the gateway to the Demilitarised Zone dividing the two Koreas, in a show of US resolve a day after North Korea failed in its attempt to test another missile. / AFP PHOTO / JUNG Yeon-Je (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
01:40
What it's really like to be inside North Korea
Kim Yo Jong, the youngest sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seen in March 2014.
Kim Yo Jong, the youngest sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seen in March 2014.
PHOTO: KCNA via Getty Images
Now playing
02:14
Kim Jong Un promotes his sister (2017)
This undated picture released from North Korea
This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on October 29, 2017 shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (C) inspecting the Pyongyang Cosmetics Factory, as his wife Ri Sol-Ju (R) looks on. / AFP PHOTO / KCNA VIA KNS / STR / South Korea OUT / REPUBLIC OF KOREA OUT ---EDITORS NOTE--- RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO/KCNA VIA KNS" - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS THIS PICTURE WAS MADE AVAILABLE BY A THIRD PARTY. AFP CAN NOT INDEPENDENTLY VERIFY THE AUTHENTICITY, LOCATION, DATE AND CONTENT OF THIS IMAGE. THIS PHOTO IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY AFP. / (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: STR/AFP/Getty Images
Now playing
03:08
Kim Jong Un's wife makes rare public appearance
PHOTO: KCTV
Now playing
00:44
Watch: N. Korea performance shows US in flames

Story highlights

Detained student was a high school salutatorian, CNN affiliate reports

Otto Frederick Warmbier is a student at the University of Virginia

A Chinese travel company says Warmbier was detained January 2 in in Pyongyang

(CNN) —  

A University of Virginia college student from Cincinnati has been detained in North Korea after being accused of a “hostile act” against the government there.

Otto Frederick Warmbier was detained January 2 in Pyongyang, according to Young Pioneer Tours, the China-based travel company that organized his trip.

He was detained at Pyongyang Airport as he was going through customs, the tour company said.

The company’s website says it “provides budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from.”

North Korean state media said Warmbier, who reportedly entered North Korea on a tourist visa, is accused of carrying out “a hostile act against the DPRK,” referring to the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.

Warmbier entered the country “for the purpose of bringing down the foundation of its single-minded unity at the tacit connivance of the U.S. government,” the report said.

The tour group said Warmbier’s family has been informed and is working with the U.S. State Department, the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Swedish Embassy, which carries out some consular services for U.S. citizens in North Korea, to address the arrest.

Warmbier is a third-year student studying commerce at the University of Virginia, according to The Cavalier Daily, the school’s student newspaper. University spokesman Anthony de Bruyn would say only that the school “has been in touch with Otto Warmbier’s family and will have no additional comment at this time.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, tweeted Friday that “North Korea’s arrest of an Ohio college student is inexcusable & he should be released & returned immediately.”

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, whose district includes the area where Warmbier went to high school, also tweeted Friday that his office was trying to contact the State Department “to assist however possible in getting Mr. Warmbier home.”

Warmbier was on the dean’s list at the University of Virginia, CNN affiliate WCPO-TV reported.

Otto Warmbier
Otto Warmbier
PHOTO: from facebook

He was also part of a student organization that “trains young professionals for careers in investment management and other functions within the financial markets,” according to the group’s website.

Warmbier played soccer and was the salutatorian of his 2013 class at Wyoming High School near Cincinnati, WCPO reported.

Kieren Thomas, a friend of Warmbier’s younger brother, said the detained student was a star soccer player in high school, outgoing and loved to travel to out of the way places.

“Otto was one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met,” Thomas said. “I’ve never met a person that had a bad thing to say about him.”

Thomas also said Warmbier is being “unjustly held.”

Warmbier’s Facebook account, which has been shut down, hinted at a love for travel.

The North Korean government has arrested and accused other U.S. citizens of similar offenses in the past.

The U.S. Embassy in Seoul says it’s aware of the reports of the student’s arrest.

North Korean officials recently allowed CNN to interview another American prisoner.

The man identified himself as Kim Dong Chul, a naturalized American, who said he used to live in Fairfax, Virginia.

“I’m asking the U.S. or South Korean government to rescue me,” Kim said during an interview at a hotel in the North Korean capital.

Kim, 62, said he was arrested in October while meeting a source to obtain a USB stick and camera used to gather military secrets.

CNN’s Will Ripley, Jennifer Rizzo, Zahra Ullah and K.J. Kwon contributed to this report.