The detained American’s wife, Lee Newman, has asked that North Korea release her 85-year-old husband. Her request was issued on Friday. Newman said her husband’s arrest was “some dreadful misunderstanding” and that his family is deeply concerned about his safety.
The request comes after the sudden arrest of an American named Merrill Newman, a 85-year-old Korean War veteran, In October. According to Newman’s son, the veteran was visiting North Korea as a tourist, curious to revisit a land he once spent time in as an infantryman sixty years ago, according to Fox News. The imprisoned American’s family says he has a heart condition which is treated with regular medication. Concerned, they sent a 30-day supply of the medicine to Pyongyang, but it is unknown if it was received and given to Newman.
Analysts say the arrest of Merrill Newman is highly unusual. North Korea’s anti-American government is known to occasionally detain and harass US citizens, however they usually aren’t elderly tourists. More often than not North Korea chooses to detain journalists or missionaries. Last November, 44-year-old American Christian missionary Kenneth Bae was arrested in North Korea and sentenced to 15 years.
Newman was first arrested four weeks ago. After an officially approved nine-day tour of North Korea, the American veteran was suddenly dragged off an airplane minutes before it was set to leave for the US. Until this week, authorities in North Korea had not confirmed Newman’s incarceration, according to NBC News. Despite the detained American’s wife’s plea for his release, they have not indicated if or when Merrill Newman will be freed. They have also declined to give any explanation for Newman’s arrest.
Bob Hamrdla, who had traveled with Newman, says the arrest may have resulted from a heated discussion between the veteran and North Korean officials about the Korean War. According to NBC News, some have suggested that North Korea may have confused the detained American for another Merrill Newman, also a Korean War veteran.
Though North Korea has acknowledged Merrill Newman’s arrest, they have issued no reply to the detained American’s wife concerning her plea for his release.