News / USA

Son of US Man Held in N. Korea Says Has Not Heard From Father

Jeffrey Newman comes out of his home to make a brief comment about his father, Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran being detained by North Korean authorities, in Pasadena, California, Nov. 22, 2013.
Jeffrey Newman comes out of his home to make a brief comment about his father, Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old Korean War veteran being detained by North Korean authorities, in Pasadena, California, Nov. 22, 2013.
Reuters
The son of an 85-year-old California retiree and Korean War veteran who was detained by North Korean authorities last month during a trip to the reclusive Asian nation said on Friday he has had no communication with his father since then.
 
Jeff Newman also told Reuters in an interview his family remained concerned about the health of his father, Merrill Newman, and does not know whether heart medication sent to North Korea on his behalf had reached him.
 
The son's comments came as a State Department official in Washington told reporters that North Korea had confirmed through diplomatic channels its detention of a U.S. citizen but did not identify the individual being held.
 
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.
x
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.
Experts on North Korea expressed surprise that an elderly American on a sightseeing trip - one of hundreds of U.S. citizens who visit that country every year - would be singled out for detention simply for having served in the Korean War.
 
One suggested that North Korea was seeking to grab the international spotlight at a time when attention was focused on talks with Iran, perhaps as a way to manipulate the United States or China into providing food aid for the country as winter approached.
 
“It's hostage-taking,” said Steven Weber, an international affairs specialist at the University of California at Berkeley.
 
The son, who lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena, has said the elder Newman was on an airplane on the last day of his trip, Oct. 26, waiting to take off when North Korean authorities boarded and took him away.
 
The father's detention came a day after he and his tour guide had been interviewed by North Korean authorities at a meeting in which Merrill Newman's military service during the Korean War was discussed, the son told CNN on Wednesday.
 
An infantry officer during the Korean War, the elder Newman resides in the upscale Northern California community of Palo Alto and had gone to North Korea on a tourist visa for a trip that his son said was supposed to last nine or 10 days.
 
Jeff Newman has said his account of his father's disappearance was based on details relayed to him through another American resident at his father's retirement home who was traveling with him at the time. That man, Bob Hamrdla, is back in California.
 
'No Communication'
 
Appearing briefly outside his home on Friday, Jeff Newman told reporters the family has “been in regular contact with the State Department since the beginning of the detention, but we don't have any new information now.” He declined to elaborate.
 
Asked in a separate telephone interview on Friday whether he had received any word from his father since he was detained, Jeff Newman, a Los Angeles real estate executive, told Reuters: “There has been no communication.”
 
“We remain concerned about his condition. We're worried about his health, and we're anxious for him to come home,” he said.
 
The U.S. government has not directly confirmed the detention of Merrill Newman, citing privacy laws, but State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday: “Our Swedish protecting power has been informed of the detention of a U.S. citizen” in North Korea.
 
“We are working in close coordination with representatives of the Embassy of Sweden to resolve this issue,” Psaki said, adding that daily requests by the Swedes for access to the detainee have yet to be granted.
 
The United States signaled through a special representative in Beijing on Thursday that the Pyongyang government could improve its strained relations with Washington by releasing any Americans held in North Korea.
 
Korean-American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae has been detained by the Pyongyang government since November 2012.
 
An estimated 1,200 to 1,500 Americans a year visit North Korea, said Andrea Lee, chief executive of Uri Tours, a New Jersey-based company that organizes tours to North Korea.
 
Daniel Sneider, an expert on the foreign policy of Korea and Japan at Stanford University, said he had never heard of North Korean authorities detaining an American tourist on vacation.
 
“We don't know why they did this or what provoked them to do it. All we know is that it's unusual, even by North Korean standards,” Sneider said.
 
Sneider said tourist trips to North Korea are “very tightly controlled” affairs typically consisting of visits “to a certain set of monuments and museums and statues.”
 
North Korea has opened up travel to foreigners during the past few years to generate revenue by appealing to an “exotic travel market” of tourists seeking out-of-the-way destinations.
 
Sneider also said that even if Newman had spoken about his time served in the Korean War, that would not necessarily explain why he was detained, given North Korea's generally indifferent attitude toward American Korean War veterans.
 
“It's not unprecedented for people who have served in the Korean War to have gone to North Korea” as tourists, Sneider said.

You May Like

Russia Names US NGO 'Undesirable'

Prosecutors determine activities of National Endowment for Democracy to be 'undesirable,' paving the way for it to be outlawed on Russian territory More

Erdogan Vows 'Anti-Terror' Campaign in Syria, Iraq

Erdogan expressed confidence the 'necessary steps' will be taken by NATO leaders, who will meet Tuesday at Turkey's request More

North Korea: 'No Interest at All' in Nuke Deal

Senior US envoy Sydney Seiler visits Beijing Tuesday for talks on how to revive the stalled six-party nuclear talks with North Korea More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs