An 85-year-old Korean War veteran has been detained in North Korea after traveling to the country on vacation. Now, his family is pleading with the government to let him go.
Merrill Newman of Palo Alto, Calif., was on his way back to America after a nine-day dream vacation to North Korea with a tour group when an officer took him off the plane he was to travel back on. Newman’s family hasn’t heard from him since that day, Oct. 26, and says that they are doing everything they can to try and get him back.
“When you don’t know where your husband of 56 years is, you don’t know his health, you don’t know when he will be home with us, it’s not an easy situation,” said his wife Lee Newman. “He needs to be back at home. We have no idea that how with the guides and the visas and the paper and the itinerary that there could be anything that could’ve gone off track.”
Merrill’s son Jeffrey Newman says that what happened is a “terrible misunderstanding” and that a conversation about his time serving in the Korean War could have led to his detainment.
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“There was a conversation that took place about the Korean War and my dad’s service that might have had some tension in it,” said Jeffrey.
Merrill was traveling with a friend, Professor George Robert Hamrdla, who was able to fly back to the United States without any problems.
“I hope that the North Koreans will see this as a humanitarian matter and allow him to return to his family as soon as possible,” said Hamrdla.
The family maintains that Merrill did nothing wrong, and they hope that the North Korean government will release him soon.
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“We don’t know what this misunderstanding is all about,” said Jeffrey. “All we want as a family is to have my father, my kids’ grandfather, returned to California so he can be with his family for Thanksgiving.”
The United States Department of State refused to make a statement regarding Newman’s detention, although it has now issued a warning for people looking to travel to North Korea.