December 7, 2013

Freed U.S. veteran returns from Korea

Merrill Newman, who served during the Korean War, comes home after being detained since October.

By Haven Daley
The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — An 85-year-old U.S. veteran detained in North Korea for several weeks returned home Saturday to applause from supporters, yellow ribbons tied to trees outside his home and the warm embrace of his family.

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U.S. tourist Merrill Newman arrives at Beijing airport Saturday after being released by North Korea. Newman was detained for more than a month.

The Associated Press

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Merrill Newman speaks beside his wife, Lee, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. Newman was detained in North Korea in late October.

The Associated Press

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Merrill Newman arrived at the San Francisco airport after turning down a ride aboard Vice President Joe Biden’s Air Force Two in favor of a direct flight from Beijing. He emerged into the international terminal smiling, accompanied by his son and holding the hand of his wife.

“I’m delighted to be home,” he said. “It’s been a great homecoming. I’m tired, but ready to be with my family.”

He also thanked the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for helping to secure his release.

Newman was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.

Last month, Newman read from an awkwardly worded alleged confession that apologized for, among other things, killing North Koreans during the war. Analysts questioned whether the statement was coerced, and former South Korean guerrillas who had worked with Newman and fought behind enemy lines during the war disputed some of the details.

North Korea cited Newman’s age and medical condition in allowing him to leave the country.

Barbara Ingram, a friend of Newman’s at the senior citizen complex where they live, said residents broke into applause when news of Newman’s release was announced Friday during lunch. “A great cheer went up,” Ingram said. “We are all so very relieved and grateful.”

Newman’s detention highlighted the extreme sensitivity with which Pyongyang views the war, which ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war.

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Merrill Newman, center, walks beside his wife, Lee, and his son Jeffrey, left, after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.

The Associated Press

  


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