American Citizen Accused of Espionage and Detained in North Korean Prison Camp
Torture, starvation, forced labor, rape, and unjust imprisonment are the fates of an estimated 150,000-200,000 citizens who are currently being held in prison camps in North Korea. We are constantly learning more about the atrocities that take place in these camps from escaped detainees who come forward to share what happened to them. One such prisoner is Shin Dong-hyuk, who managed in 2012 to break out of the camp where he was born and had been held captive for 23 years. He has been able to move on to some degree from the horrors he endured to live a very different life.
The North Korean government not only arrests its own people, but also American citizens. One such man is Merrill Newman, an 85 year old who is a retiree and a veteran of the Korean War. He was detained over a month ago, minutes before the plane he had already boarded was due to depart for Beijing. He had taken a ten day tour of the country, utilizing a Korean-approved travel agency and carrying all the necessary documents.
The Korean officials claim he is a criminal and is guilty of having “masterminded espionage and subversive activities” against Pyongyang. They charge that he was trying to meet up with soldiers he had trained during the Korean War to fight North Korea. Photos of an apology letter, as well as pictures and a video of Newman reading the letter, have recently been released. In the letter he admits to the crimes of which he is accused and begs for forgiveness. He also states that the US and other Western countries promote propaganda about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). According to Yoo Ho-Yeol, a professor of Korean Studies in Seoul, it is possible that this is the authorities’ way of trying to release Newman without legal proceedings. However, it is currently unclear whether this apology will ultimately result in his freedom or a long jail sentence.
To join the Facebook movement supporting Merrill Newman’s release from North Korea, click here.