American veteran, 85, detained by North Korea
PALO ALTO, Calif. — Despite strong warnings from the State Department, hundreds of Americans like the Korean War veteran apparently being detained in North Korea travel to the communist nation each year.
In the case of Merrill Newman, a retired finance executive from California, that desire was fueled by the three years he spent as an infantryman six decades ago, according to his son. North Korean officials detained him at the end of a trip on Oct. 26 as he sat in an airplane set to leave the country, the son said. North Koreans had reportedly interviewed Newman the day before.
“We don't know what this misunderstanding is all about,” Jeffrey Newman said as he awaited word on efforts by the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang to secure his father's release. “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.”
Speaking on Thursday to reporters in Beijing, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies wouldn't confirm Newman's detention but said, generally, that U.S. officials were working with Swedish diplomats “to try to move this issue along and of course calling on North Korea ... to resolve the issue and to allow our citizens to go free.” Sweden acts as America's protecting power in North Korea because Washington and Pyongyang don't have official diplomatic relations.
The State Department this week revised its travel warning for North Korea to advise all citizens against going there, saying it had received reports of authorities “arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens and not allowing them to depart the country.”
Although travel to North Korea is not common, Americans have been making the trip in increasing numbers since the country opened itself up to American tourism two years ago, said Jenny Town, assistant director of the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
“Tourism is on the rise, especially of Americans, because it's such an isolated state. People are kind of fascinated by ... going somewhere where no one else has gone,” she said.
Travel to the country is arranged through tour companies that have local guides in North Korea that receive tourists and help them get around, she said. With no North Korean consulate in the United States, so visas are obtained abroad, often in Beijing.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Russia’s crackdown in predominantly Muslim region fuels exodus to ISIS
- Brazil power brokers arrested on suspicion of blocking probe
- Bus carrying presidential guard targeted by bomber in Tunisia
- Palestinian artist who appealed blasphemy sentence of 800 lashes, prison sentenced to execution
- French lawmakers vote to continue airstrikes against ISIS
- Putin sends air defense missiles to Syria to deter Turkey
- Russian pilot rescued by Syrian commando unit
- Turkey shoots down Russian jet it says violated its airspace
- Pakistani doctor who led CIA to bin Laden stuck in prison
- Poland’s ruling party moves to stack top court
- Tunisia put under state of emergency