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North Korea

U.S. veteran: My apology was coerced

85-year-old man detained for weeks

  • Merrill Newman, center, walks beside his wife Lee, left, and his son Jeffrey after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was released from North Korea early Saturday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    Merrill Newman, center, walks beside his wife Lee, left, and his son Jeffrey after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was released from North Korea early Saturday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

  • Merrill Newman speaks to reporters after arriving at San Francisco International Airport, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in San Francisco. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was released from North Korea early Saturday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

    Merrill Newman speaks to reporters after arriving at San Francisco International Airport, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in San Francisco. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was released from North Korea early Saturday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

  • A man watches a TV news program showing detained U.S. citizen Merrill Newman deported from North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec 7, 2013.  North Korea on Saturday deported the elderly U.S. tourist, apparently ending the saga of his return to the North six decades after he advised South Korean guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Ahn Yung-joon)

    A man watches a TV news program showing detained U.S. citizen Merrill Newman deported from North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec 7, 2013. North Korea on Saturday deported the elderly U.S. tourist, apparently ending the saga of his return to the North six decades after he advised South Korean guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Ahn Yung-joon)

  • Merrill Newman, center, walks beside his wife Lee, left, and his son Jeffrey after arriving at San Francisco International Airport on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was released from North Korea early Saturday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
  • Merrill Newman speaks to reporters after arriving at San Francisco International Airport, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, in San Francisco. Newman was detained in North Korea late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war. He was released from North Korea early Saturday. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
  • A man watches a TV news program showing detained U.S. citizen Merrill Newman deported from North Korea, at Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, Dec 7, 2013.  North Korea on Saturday deported the elderly U.S. tourist, apparently ending the saga of his return to the North six decades after he advised South Korean guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang. (AP Photo/Ahn Yung-joon)

The 85-year-old U.S. Korean War veteran who was detained for weeks by North Korea said yesterday that the videotaped confession in which he apologized for killing North Koreans during the war was given involuntarily and under duress.

In a written statement issued yesterday, Merrill Newman said he tried to show that the words he read on the recording were not his own by emphasizing the apology’s awkward phrasing and poor English grammar.

“Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily,” Newman said. “Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me ‘confess’ to.”

The former Army lieutenant said that while the North Koreans treated him well during his detention at a Pyongyang hotel, an interrogator told him repeatedly that if he did not apologize for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and during his visit to the communist nation, he would be sentenced to 15 years in jail for espionage.

“Under these circumstances, I read the document with the language they insisted on because it seemed to be the only way I might get home,” he said.

Newman, who was deported Friday and returned home to California on Saturday, was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea. His visit came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war while serving in one of the U.S. Army’s 8240th unit, an early special forces unit also known as the White Tigers whose missions remained classified until the 1990s.

He was scheduled to visit South Korea following his North Korea trip to meet some of the former fighters he had helped train.

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