A little over a month after kidnapping American Merrill Newman off of an outgoing plane in Pyongyang, the North Korea has released the veteran. Upon being freed, Newman, a veteran from the Korean War, apologized for the hostile acts he was accused of against the country who kidnapped him and claimed to be sincerely repentant.
Korea’s official statement claims the decision to release Newman was made after considering the age and deteriorating health of the 85 year old California resident. Newman was in North Korea with a friend touring the country privately when the government detained him and accused him of a long list of crimes.
One week after publishing what appears to be a signed apology and confession from Newman, North Korea claimed that he had come to their country to look for former guerrilla soldiers against communism from the Korean police action.
According to the written confession that was said to be authored by Newman, the American had asked for tour guides to help him look for either veterans of a particular unit or their relatives.
It is unclear whether or not Newman made the confession under coercion. According to one news report, the confession was written in a very clumsy style of English. North Korea also has a past history of making foreign detainees confess to something before being released.
In a statement at the Beijing airport, Newman said he appreciated the tolerant attitude of the North Korean government to allow him to go home. His release came on the same day that Vice President Joseph Biden was visiting the demilitarized zone which separates North and South Korea. Biden had offered Newman a ride home on the vice-presidential plane but the offer was declined him saying that he preferred a more direct flight to California.
Unfortunately, there is another American hostage that still remains in captivity in North Korea and Vice-President Biden says that the United States government would also be battling for him to be returned home. Kenneth Bae is a licensed tour guide and a missionary for the Christian faith. He is still in Pyongyang and has been for over a year since he was first captured and put in a forced labor camp.
The Bae family issued a statement saying that they were excited to hear of the release of Newman. The statement said that Newman and his family had been the subject of their prayers and were glad that he would be with his family for the holidays. They also said they were hoping to soon be reunited with their loved one as well.
In other news from North Korea, the intelligence branch of the South Korean government told Seoul lawmakers that Kim Jong Un, supreme leader of their northern counterpart, had reportedly eliminated his uncle, who was in fact, the country’s second on the leadership tier.
The reported elimination of Jang Song Thaek has caused many regular observers of North Korea to be on the alert of any signs of political tension or shifts in policy in Pyongyang.
The release of Newman came just a few days after the news from South Korea was made public.
By Rick Hope
The Globe And Mail