- (Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon)
An 85-year-old Veteran on vacation in Asia has been detained by North Korea government officials since late October, according to his son who resides in California. The veteran's family and friends are calling his detention a terrible misunderstanding.
Merrill Newman, a tourist from Palo Alto, California, was just ending his nine-day visit to North Korea on October 26 when a uniformed North Korean soldier reportedly boarded Newman's departing flight and asked him to step off the plane. Newman's travel companion, Bob Hamrdla, said that's the last time the 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War was seen.
Newman's son, Jeffrey Newman, told the San Jose Mercury News that the day before his father was detained, the war veteran reportedly had a sit-down talk with North Korean officials regarding his service in the Korean War. Newman was reportedly unnerved by the conversation, but went along with his travel plans until the next day when he was escorted off the plane. The war took place from 1950 to 1953 between North and South Korea and ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, so technically the two countries are still at war.
The 85-year-old war veteran reportedly wanted to visit North Korea because of the three years he spent there during the war. Since his disappearance three weeks ago, his family has reportedly been involved in diplomatic talks with both the U.S. State Department and the Swedish Embassy, as the U.S. has no official diplomatic relations with North Korea. The State Department has not confirmed Newman's detention to the media, citing privacy concerns, and the North Korea state media has not reported the detention either.
Now, the veteran's son says his family just want their father and grandfather home for the holidays. "We don't know what this misunderstanding is all about," Newman told the AP. "All we want as a family is to have my father, my kids' grandfather, returned to California so he can be with his family for Thanksgiving."
Relations between North Korea and the U.S. became tense this past year when North Korea began threatening nuclear strikes against the U.S., forcing the United Nations Security Council to impose tougher sanctions on the country as punishment for its nuclear tests.
North Korea, known for its human rights offenses, made headlines last year when it detained Kenneth Bae, a Christian missionary traveling through the country. As The Christian Post previously reported, Bae, who was imprisoned in one of the country's labor camps over a year ago, has become the longest-serving American detainee in the country since the end of the Korean War in 1953.