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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
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 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 US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
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.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

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