In the summer of 2017, just before the release of American student Otto Warmbier from North Korean custody, a US diplomat signed a pledge that Washington would pay $2 million for the 22-year-old's lengthy hospital stay in Pyongyang, the Washington Post reports. The North Korean officials insisted that Yun sign the invoice for $2m before they release Warmbier.
The bill was sent to the Treasury Department and remained unpaid through 2017, the Post reported.
The president sparked intense backlash after his last visit with North Korean Kim Jong Un for the unsuccessful summit in Vietnam, when he told reporters he believed Kim when the dictator said he was unaware of Warmbier's condition.
Warmbier, a University of Virginia student visiting North Korea as a tourist, was imprisoned there for 17 months starting in January 2016.
Going up his chain of command, Yun contacted the then secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who contacted the president.
They directed their envoy to sign the slip of paper agreeing that he would pay the $2 million, the two sources said. Tillerson, the Treasury Department and North Korea's New York-based envoy responsible for United States affairs did not respond to requests for comment. He died within days of his return to the United States.
Warmbier, who grew up in the Cincinnati area, had traveled to North Korea with a tour group in late 2015. He was placed on a public trial and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. "But those hostages came out, with respect, we didn't pay for them", the president said during an IN rally IN May 2018, after the return of three hostages back to the U.S. Doctors in the USA said he had suffered severe brain damage, but they weren't sure what led to it.
An Ohio coroner said Warmbier died from a lack of oxygen and blood to the brain. His parents requested that an autopsy not be performed.
The director of North Korea's Friendship Hospital said the family's accusations that Warmbier died as a result of torture were a "total distortion of the truth".
In December, Judge Beryl A. Howell of the US District Court in the District of Columbia awarded them $501 million in damages - money that they will likely never see.
The Warmbiers have blamed Kim for their son's death, but Trump has said that he believes the North Korean leader did not know about the student's treatment.
"He tells me he didn't know about it, and I take him at his word", the president said at a press conference in Hanoi in February.
North Korea has taken Americans as hostages before, and this is not the first time Pyongyang has threatened huge hospital bills for American citizens it had detained. In the end, he was released without paying any of it.