North Korea admits it held American, 85; says he confessed to hostile acts

Pyongyang confirms it is holding war vet, 85, for '‘hostile acts' and publishes his apology

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 November, 2013, 12:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 December, 2013, 9:25am

North Korea confirmed yesterday that an American veteran of the Korean war had been detained for "hostile acts" against the country and said he had released an apology confessing to his alleged crimes.

Merrill Newman, 85, of California, was detained in October after entering North Korea "under the guise of a tourist", the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

It is the first time the country has officially admitted holding Newman, whose family said he was detained on October 26 shortly before take-off from Pyongyang after a 10-day tour.

KCNA said Newman had committed crimes both as a tourist and during his participation in the Korean war six decades ago and published an apology running to nearly 600 words - parts of it written in poor English - in which the American allegedly confessed to his crimes.

Newman, a retired financial executive who served three years during the war, has been accused of infringing upon the "dignity and sovereignty" of the secretive state and "slandering its socialist system, quite contrary to the purpose of the tour", the report said.

The American also masterminded espionage and subversive activities during the 1950-53 war and was involved in the killing of North Korean soldiers and innocent civilians, it said.

"I realise that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives [sic] but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologising for my offensives [sic] sincerely toward the [North Korean] government and the Korean people and I want not punish me [sic]," Newman was quoted as saying by KCNA.

He had intended to meet surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead, KCNA said, adding he had asked his guide for help. He had also criticised North Korea during his trip, it said.

"I will never commit the offensive act [sic] against the DPRK government and the Korean people again," the apology said. North Korea released video showing Newman reading his apology, dated November 9.

Experts said North Korea might have issued the apology to accelerate judicial steps against Newman and resolve his case.

"North Korea wants negotiations with the United States on his release," said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Friends and relatives have said Newman was detained because of a misunderstanding.