News / Asia

Elderly American Detained in North Korea

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.
VOA News
North Korea is reported to have detained an 85-year-old U.S. citizen and Korean War veteran who had entered the country on a valid visitor's visa.
 
Media reports say North Korean authorities removed Merrill Newman of California from the plane on which he was about to leave the country on October 26.
 
His son, Jeff Newman, told CNN it was his father's "life-long dream" to see the North and its culture, after serving in the South as a U.S. infantry officer in the 1950s. He said his father arranged the trip through a North Korea-approved Chinese tour company and had "all the proper visas."
 
Newman was traveling with a neighbor, Bob Hamrdla, who lives in the same retirement home. Hamrdla was allowed to return home. He later called the incident a "terrible misunderstanding" and expressed hope Pyongyang will release Newman for humanitarian reasons.
 
North Korea, which is also holding a U.S.-Korean Christian missionary on charges of subversion, has not commented on Newman's case. It is not known if he has been charged with a crime.

The top U.S. envoy to North Korea, Glyn Davies, on Thursday called on Pyongyang to resolve the issue of detained American citizens. Davies, who made his comments while in Beijing, did not mention Newman by name.
 
Officials at the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing say they are aware of the reports, but did not comment further.
 
However, on Tuesday, the State Department tightened the U.S. travel warning to North Korea. The updated warning now reads, "U.S. citizens crossing into North Korea, even accidentally, have been subject to arbitrary arrest and long-term detention.”
 
Newman's detention comes almost a year after the arrest of another U.S. citizen, Kenneth Bae. The Korean-American missionary, detained November 3 last year, 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.
 
It is not uncommon for North Korea to arrest foreigners on suspicion of spying or conducting illegal religious activities. The communist country's leadership views both as a threat to its hold on power.
 
In a separate case, North Korea said earlier this month it had arrested a South Korean "spy" who was engaged in "plot-breeding" activities. On Wednesday, reports in the French news agency and South Korea's Dong-A Ilbo identified the man as 50-year-old Kim Jeong-Wook.
 
His family and other Christian activists told the news outlets that Kim is a missionary who was helping North Korean refugees who had escaped from their homeland to China. They say Kim was arrested after traveling to Pyongyang to check on the wellbeing of several refugees who had been repatriated by Beijing.
 
North Korea has been accused of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips in negotiations with Western countries over its controversial 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.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More