N.Korea Frees U.S. Veteran

Octogenarian Korean War veteran Merrill Newman returned to the U.S. on Saturday after 42 days in detention in North Korea. He was sent home on a plane bound for Beijing and later reunited with his family at San Francisco Airport.

Earlier last week, the North published a video clip in which Newman is reading an apology for his "offensive actions" against the regime during the war.

"I'm delighted" to be back home, Newman told reporters. "It's been a great homecoming. I'm tired, but I'm ready to be with my family."

Merrill Newman (center) arrives at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday after being released from North Korea. /Reuters-Newsis Merrill Newman (center) arrives at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday after being released from North Korea. /Reuters-Newsis

Newman would not be drawn about his experiences in the North. Asked what the food was like he just said, "Healthy."

Asked if he would return to the North, he answered, "Probably not."

Some observers say that the North released him probably for fear of criticism from the international community given Newman's old age and health.

Others say the North waited to release him until the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to South Korea, because it wants to improve relations with Washington.

A diplomatic source in Washington said, "The North released Newman even though there were no special efforts on the part of the U.S. government like the dispatch of a special envoy. This must be some kind of message for the U.S."

englishnews@chosun.com / Dec. 09, 2013 10:39 KST