President Trump said Otto Warmbier should have been brought home to the U.S. earlier, sparking controversy as some perceived it as a swipe against the administration of former President Barack Obama.
"It's a disgrace what happened to Otto," said Trump about the student who passed away June 19, just days after the North Korean government released him in a coma. "It's a total disgrace what happened to Otto. It should never, ever be allowed to happen. He should have been brought home that same day. The results would have been a lot different."
In March 2016, Warmbier was imprisoned in North Korea for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda poster from his hotel on New Year's Day.
Fred Warmbier, the boy's father, says the Obama administration advised the family to keep "low profile" while they worked to release his son, yet the family grew more vocal when Trump became president.
Otto finally returned to the U.S. June 13 in a vegetative state, which North Korean officials attributed to botulism and a sleeping pill, News.com.au reports.
Medical examiners, however, revealed there were no signs of botulism in the student's system. His father consequently accused the hermit nation of torturing Warmbier into a coma.
Despite his son's condition, Fred was overjoyed to see him and thanked the Trump administration for orchestrating his release.
"It is my understanding that Ambassador Yun and his team, at the direction of the president aggressively pursued resolution of the situation," he said.
When asked if Obama could have done more, he added, "the results speak for themselves."
Yet officials in the former administration defended their efforts.
Retired Rear Adm. John Kirby, former State Department spokesman, asserted they had worked "very, very hard" to secure Warmbier's release, but also expressed empathy for the family's situation.
"I understand the frustration that they feel," said Kirby. "I can’t possibly imagine the grief they’re going through right now."
Some on social media believed it was unfair to accuse Obama of not doing enough, as other Americans still remain captive in North Korean.
"The only reason he was released was because he was days from dying and it was easier for North Korea this way," wrote one Daily Mail reader. "See any non dying Americans detained in N Korea being released? No.. No we do not."
"Four more Americans still in there [North Korea] Trump -- I take it that they will be on the plane back this afternoon then?" added another. "I mean, how much more full of s*** could you be?"