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Merrill Newman, US vet held in North Korea, says he was comfortable there

NKorea Detained American
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - A day after arriving home to California, the 85-year-old U.S. veteran detained for weeks by North Korea said Sunday that he was well-fed and kept comfortable in a hotel room, not a jail cell.

Merrill Newman spoke briefly with the Santa Cruz Sentinel (http://tinyurl.com/m2dbeyl ) outside his vacation home steps from the beach in Santa Cruz, a coastal community about 75 miles south of San Francisco. Newman and his wife also live about 45 miles north in a Palo Alto retirement home.

He was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.

Newman told the newspaper "that's not my English" when asked about the video North Korean state media released last month showing him reading an awkwardly worded alleged confession apologizing for, among other things, killing North Koreans during the war.

Analysts questioned whether the statement was coerced. Newman hasn't discussed the circumstances of the alleged apology, but it was riddled with stilted English and grammatical errors, such as "I want not punish me."

The former South Korean guerrillas who had worked with Newman and fought behind enemy lines during the war disputed some of the details of the statement.

Newman also said Sunday that his wife is now in charge of his passport when asked if he planned any more international travel.

Newman cut short the impromptu interview after a few questions.

The veteran's family didn't respond to an email from The Associated Press requesting an interview. His son, Jeff Newman, said the family planned to talk about Newman's experience in greater detail sometime later after he has recuperated.

Newman arrived at San Francisco International Airport from Beijing shortly before 9 a.m. Saturday and was greeted by his wife, son and friends.

"I'm delighted to be home," he said. "It's been a great homecoming. I'm tired, but ready to be with my family."

He also thanked the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for helping secure his release.

North Korea cited Newman's age and medical condition in allowing him to leave the country.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said on CNN Sunday morning that North Korea's reason for detaining Newman may never be completely explained. He said North Korea's internal politics, the country's desire for global attention and other wants could have prompted Newman's detention.

"They often will grab people to gain attention, to get a world leader to come and rescue them from North Korea," Schiff said. "It may be a shout to the rest of the world that we want you to pay attention to us again and our nuclear program or it may be simply confined to something Mr. Newman said that caused him to be taken off the plane."

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gerrygulb December 09 2013 at 12:07 PM

Somehow I do not feel sorry for this guy. He knew the risks and took them anyway. Stay out of countries who HATE America.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
1 reply
belldon10 gerrygulb December 09 2013 at 12:28 PM

I agree. If you voluntarily go to hell, don't complain about the heat.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
jstewo2 December 09 2013 at 9:52 AM

I think that one must understand that time and the person who spent time in Korea. I was active duty in that era waiting for orders to Korea when the conflict came to its end. He had interactions with guerillas and established good relations with them. It lasts WAY past the conflict so judging him negatively shows immaturity on the part of those who have no idea what those military people went through while there. Please do not judge less you were there at that time. I am the same age and know pretty well what he thought some sixty years forward. Bless his intentions!

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2 replies
Paul Castle jstewo2 December 09 2013 at 9:57 AM

When one goes to a place such as he did and knows there could be severe retaliation for his actions it is hard not to think him stupide. I served in VN and have no desire to go there.

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apaverman jstewo2 December 09 2013 at 10:52 AM

someone with common sense (JSTEWO2)

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Ron Miller December 09 2013 at 1:26 PM

ribprtg --

You are an idiot.

Semper Fi

Flag Reply +5 rate up
my opinion December 09 2013 at 10:00 AM

glad he is free ! but it is rather naive to think americans except rodman can go to north korea !

Flag Reply +3 rate up
Joy December 09 2013 at 10:03 AM

I understand Mr Newman's stated reasons for going to N Korea.

But I'll never understand WHY he acted on them.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
dmkei December 09 2013 at 1:18 PM

Stupidity. No age limit on that. Curious are you?

Flag Reply +4 rate up
tomfox2535 December 09 2013 at 10:08 AM

merican war in Korea. Semper fi

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
meaculpa tomfox2535 December 09 2013 at 10:16 AM



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grampy5 December 09 2013 at 10:09 AM

I am a Korean War Veteran (the forgotten war), and I respect Merrill's service to our country; albeit, If you want to go vacationing Merrill, stick to the beautiful USA. However, if you do decide to visit a foreign country, at least pick a civilized country, and save the us taxpayers some money

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dustybottle December 09 2013 at 10:09 AM

If you haven't walked in our boots, please do not judge. Life is not the same as it was and never will be.

Flag Reply +3 rate up
nlbsbb December 09 2013 at 1:47 PM

I fought in Korea and I would not place any trust in North Korean hospitality. It is a cruel, repressive nation, keeping their people in bondage, brainwashed and under constant threat. North Korea's nuclear and missile status is also a threat to peace in the world.

Flag Reply +9 rate up
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