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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid