San Francisco, CA, United States (4E) – A Korean War veteran ended a month of detention in North Korea on Saturday when he returned home in San Francisco.
Merrill Newman, 85, arrived at the San Francisco International Airport from Beijing, China shortly after 9 a.m. His wife, Lee, and son, Jeff, fetched him at the airport.
Newman told reporters at the terminal that he was thankful to Swedish diplomats in Pyongyang and the American Embassy in Beijing for helping secure his release.
Newman, who served as an Army lieutenant and advised a group of Korean guerrilla fighters during the Korean War, has been traveling back and forth to South Korea in recent years to meet former colleagues. He decided to also visit North Korea for 10 days.
Newman entered North Korea pretending as a tourist. He was leaving Pyongyang on Oct. 26 aboard an Asiana Airlines plane when he was removed from the aircraft and detained.
The Korean Central News Agency reported that the American tourist was released on humanitarian grounds and after confessing to “crimes against the Korean people” on a video released by the North Korean government. Authorities in Pyongyang also claimed that Newman apologized for killing North Koreans during the 1950-53 Korean War and visiting the reclusive country.
Vice President Joe Biden, who was in Seoul to cap his three-country Asian visit, offered Newman a lift back home aboard Air Force Two, but the veteran declined so he can fly home earlier.