March 9, 2014
Released veteran says North Korea confession made 'under duress'
An elderly US Korean War veteran released from detention in North Korea said on a videotaped "confession" he made was given under duress and that he believed he may have been held in a misunderstanding over his interest in the war.
Merrill Newman, 85, said in a statement that he was kept under guard in a North Korean hotel during a detention that lasted over a month, and that his interrogator told him he would be sentenced to jail for 15 years if he did not cooperate.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me 'confess' to," Newman said in the statement issued two days after he arrived at San Francisco airport on Saturday following his release.
Newman, who was a US special forces soldier during the 1950-53 Korean War and worked with guerrillas fighting behind the lines against the communists in the north, was pulled off a flight on October 26 as he was about to leave the reclusive Asian nation at the end of a tourist visit.
He was held for over a month for crimes North Korea said he committed during the war, when he was a lieutenant with a US Army unit nicknamed the "White Tigers," serving as an adviser to a group of partisans who fought deep behind enemy lines.
Newman said that during his tourist trip he had expressed interest in visiting some of those "who fought in the war" in the Mount Kuwol area. He said he had helped train partisan fighters operating in that area during the war.
"The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister," he said. "It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight, I should have been more sensitive to that."