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Wife of Man Held in North Korea Appeals for His Release

  • VOA News

This photo provided by the Palo Alto Weekly shows Merrill Newman, a retired finance executive and Red Cross volunteer, 2005.

This photo provided by the Palo Alto Weekly shows Merrill Newman, a retired finance executive and Red Cross volunteer, 2005.

The wife of a U.S. retiree detained in Pyongyang is asking North Korea to release her husband in time for this week's Thanksgiving holiday.

Eighty-five year-old Merrill Newman was on a plane set to depart Pyongyang last month when he was held by North Korean authorities for unknown reasons.

His wife, Lee, made an emotional appeal for his release Monday on CNN, saying the family is looking forward to being together for the holidays.

Fighting back tears, she said her husband has a heart disorder and that it is unclear if the medication his family sent to the North has reached him.

Newman is a Korean War veteran who was on what his family said was a 10-day sightseeing tour of North Korea.

The family said North Korean authorities appeared to raise questions about his military service during the trip.

North Korea has acknowledged that it has detained Newman, but has not said why. It is not clear if he has been charged with a crime.

The U.S. State Department has called for Pyongyang to free Newman, in addition to Korean-American missionary Kenneth Bae. Bae was detained last November. He was convicted of state subversion and sentenced to 15 years hard labor.

The 45-year-old was detained after entering North Korea as a tour operator. His family says he has diabetes and is in ill health.

North Korea has been accused of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips in negotiations with Western countries over its nuclear weapons program.

Pyongyang has detained at least six Americans since 2009. While some were given harsh prison sentences, all were eventually released. In most cases, their release followed visits by high-ranking former or current U.S. officials.
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