November 22, 2013 09:15
An American who was arrested in North Korea on Oct. 26 has been identified as Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran from Palo Alto, California.
Newman was about to leave North Korea when he was asked by a North Korean officer to step off the plane.
"He's always wanted to go to North Korea; it's been a lifelong thing," his son, Jeffrey Newman, told the San Jose Mercury News on Wednesday. "My dad got off, walked out with the stewardess, and that's the last he was seen."
Merrill Newman went to the North last month with friend Bob Hamdla for a package tour arranged by a Beijing-based travel agency.
After studying zoology at the University of California at Berkeley, Newman joined the Army in 1950 and served as an infantry officer during the Korean War. He obtained a master's degree in education from Stanford University after the war and worked as an accountant for tech companies.
On retiring in 1984, he moved to Palo Alto with his wife, the paper said.
The day before he was detained, Newman and a local tour guide talked with a North Korean official about his experience of the Korean War.
Calling Newman's detention "a terrible misunderstanding," his travel companion Hamdla said in a statement, "I hope that the North Koreans see this as a humanitarian matter and allow him to return to his family as soon as possible."
"It's also very unusual for the North Koreans not to acknowledge, particularly after holding the person for weeks, that they have the person... with no apparent Korean ties," said Daniel Sneider, a North Korea expert at the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center of Stanford University. "That may indicate that they haven't decided what to do with him yet, and therefore they don't want to admit that they've arrested him."
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