Widgets Magazine

Stanford alumnus detained in North Korea apologizes in released video

DAILY NEWS BRIEF: Merrill Newman M.A. ‘55, a Palo Alto resident and Korean War veteran, was escorted off a plane in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Oct. 26, by North Korean authorities. North Korean officials recently released a video of him apologizing for espionage acts during his service in the Korean war.

Newman had arranged a 10-day trip to North Korea with a friend, Robert Hamrdla ‘59, M.A. ’64, M.A. ’69— neighbor and former Stanford staff member.

In an interview with Reuters, Jeff Newman, son of Merrill Newman, said there has not been direct communication with Merrill Newman since he was taken. Jeff Newman added that the family feared for his father’s health since they do not know if he had received the heart medication they sent to North Korea.

The United States Department of State has declined to publicly confirm Newman’s detention but updated its travel warning for North Korea, recommending that Americans refrain from traveling to the country. However, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told The Telegraph: “Our Swedish protecting power has been informed of the detention of a U.S. citizen” in North Korea.

However on Nov. 30, the North Korean state-run news agency, KCNA, reported Newman had signed an apology letter to Korean officials on November 9. A video of Newman, appearing relaxed and in good health, reading his apology letter to Korean officials was also released.

In the apology reported by KCNA, Newman said, “After I killed so many civilians and [North Korean] soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people.”

In the apology Newman also admitted to commanding partisan guerrillas made up of South Koreans and North Korean anti-communists in acts of espionage. North Korean officials claimed that during Newman’s ten-day trip we was trying to reconnect with relatives of the soldiers he led during the war.

Until now, no explanation was given for the detainment of Newman and there has not been an immediate response to the report from U.S. officials.

This brief was updated on November 30, 2013.

About Catherine Zaw

Catherine Zaw was formerly the Managing Editor of News for Vol. 245 and Vol. 246. To contact her, please email czaw13@gmail.com.