American Detainee Merrill Newman Released from North Korea
Merrill Newman, the 85 year old Korean War veteran who has been detained in North Korea for over a month, was released on December 6, 2013. While they’ve historically required that a high-profile American such as the president travel there to retrieve detainees, in this situation North Korean officials chose to deport Newman back to the United States with no further trouble. Bill Richardson speculates that the decision was based in part on the fact that the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) was receiving a lot of bad press, and that Newman had “served his purpose” for the country. The official Korean Central News Agency wrote on Saturday, “Taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding, apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition, the above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint.” Whether his release was for humanitarian or political reasons, it was celebrated by all who have been working for his return to the US.
While he declined an interview, Newman did answer a few questions outside his Santa Cruz home on Sunday. Previously believed to be held under harsh conditions, he claimed to have been comfortable and even “bored” during his detention in North Korea. When asked about the confession letter that was released in November, he simply smirked and said, “Obviously, that’s not my English,” all but confirming that he was forced to read the letter and did not, in fact, write it himself.
While Merrill Newman’s return home is a huge relief for the United States, Kenneth Bae, the missionary who has been in detention in North Korea for over a year, remains captive. Joe Biden, after rejoicing about the outcome of Newman’s case, calls on the country to press for the release of Bae, whose living conditions are much worse than Newman’s seem to have been. To help Bae, visit this website to sign the petition and learn how to write him letters of hope, or join this Facebook group.