An elderly American veteran held more than a month by North Korea and accused of committing “hostile acts” during the Korean war has been “deported.”
Eighty-five year old Merril Newman was released on Saturday following direct contact between the US and North Korean governments. Earlier, Newman had written an “apology” for his actions during the war:
In the note — which was dated November 9 — Newman talked about his having advised the Kuwol Unit, part of the “intelligence bureau” fighting against Pyongyang during the Korean War. He detailed how he commanded troops to collect “information” and wage deadly attacks.
“After I killed so many civilians and (North Korean) soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people,” Newman said, according to that KCNA report.
The reported message also touched on his return 60 years later to North Korea, saying that he “shamelessly … had a plan to meet any surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead soldiers.”
His statement ended: “If I go back to (the) USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.”
Newman had traveled to North Korea as a tourist, and it is still not clear what set off the North Korean government and caused them to seize him.
Before leaving on a plane for San Francisco, Newman gave a statement from the airport in Beijing:
Hours earlier, in the airport in Beijing, video showed him smiling as he walked past a cavalcade of reporters. He felt good, he said, and was looking forward to seeing his wife
“I’m very glad to be on my way home,” Newman said. “And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way.”
The communist country “deported” the veteran of the Korean War, North Korea’s state news agency KCNA reported early Saturday. The move coincided with a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to South Korea, where he laid a wreath in honor of those who died in the war that pitted North against South.
A senior administration official said that Newman’s release was the result of direct contact between Washington and Pyongyang. The official said the North Koreans had told the Obama administration in a telephone call that they were releasing Newman; no explanation was offered.
There were hopes that Newman’s release might lead to the freeing of American missionary Kenneth Bae, who was sentenced to 15 years in a labor camp, also for “hostile acts,” earlier this fall. The State Department reiterated its demand that the North Koreans pardon and release Bae, who has been in captivity for more than a year.