GOP senator wears shirt honoring Otto Warmbier at Korean DMZ
© Rob Portman's Office

Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanCost for last three government shutdowns estimated at billion The Hill's Morning Report - Trump takes 2020 roadshow to New Mexico The 13 Republicans needed to pass gun-control legislation MORE (R-Ohio) wore a t-shirt honoring Otto Warmbier during his trip this week to the Demilitarized Zone on the Korean Peninsula.

Portman was photographed wearing a grey t-shirt emblazoned with “Otto” in capital letters, over an American flag.

“I could not help but think of Otto Warmbier and his family,” Portman said in a statement released by his office. “Otto has been at the front of my mind while I’ve been here, and I’ve made clear to South Korean government officials that we must never forget him.”

Warmbier, an American college student, was imprisoned in North Korea for 15 months and during his detention suffered serious brain damage. He was arrested in North Korea for allegedly trying to steal a painting in a hotel during a trip to the country.


He died in June 2017 at the age of 22, shortly after being returned to the U.S.

Portman, Warmbier’s home state senator, worked with the family to secure his return and accompanied the University of Virginia student on the last portion of his trip home.

North Korean officials have said Warmbier’s brain damage was the result of botulism.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump conversation with foreign leader part of complaint that led to standoff between intel chief, Congress: report Pelosi: Lewandowski should have been held in contempt 'right then and there' Trump to withdraw FEMA chief nominee: report MORE initially said that Warmbier had been "tortured beyond belief" while imprisoned in North Korea. But Trump later sparked controversy when he questioned whether North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnKim invited Trump to visit North Korea amid stalled nuclear talks: report Trump to have dinner with Otto Warmbier's parents: report Ted Lieu congratulates first Asian American cast member on 'Saturday Night Live' MORE knew about the American's treatment.

Portman said in his statement that talks with Pyongyang “must be about North Korea’s human rights abuses and how they must change.” 

He said he also met with a North Korean defector to learn more about human rights abuses in that country.