Last month, North Korean officials pulled Merrill Newman, an 85-year-old veteran of the Korean War, from a plane just as it was about to depart from Pyongyang, according to Newman's son. No one from Newman's family has heard from him since.
According to Newman's son, Jeff, who was told of the incident by his father's travel partner, the detainment occurred one day after Newman and his tour guide had a "difficult" conversation with North Korean officials about Newman's military service in Korea. "I understand that my dad was a bit bothered but really didn't go into any detail (about the meeting) with his traveling companion," Jeff Newman told CNN. "The Korean War was discussed and my dad's role in the service, and the meeting concluded."
The next day, as Newman and his tour group were waiting on the tarmac to depart from Pyongyang, a uniformed North Korea officer boarded, asked for Newman's passport, and then ordered him to leave the plane.
“My dad got off, walked out with the stewardess, and that’s the last he was seen,” JeffNewman told the Associated Press.
Officials at the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in South Korea refused to confirm the incident, citing privacy laws. "We are calling on North Korea, as in the Kenneth Bae case, to resolve this issue and let our citizens go free,” Glyn Davies, the U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy, told Reuters. "I cannot comment in any specificity about that because we do not have a privacy act waiver so by law we are constrained."
Last November, Kenneth Bae, an American missionary, was detained in North Korea and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.
"This is a misunderstanding," Jeff Newman said to CNN. "My father is a (Korean War) veteran and wanted to see the country and culture he has been interested in for years."
[Image via AP]