An American tourist has been detained in North Korea for more than three weeks, according to his son.
85-year-old Merrill Newman, a Korean War veteran, was set to leave the country after a 9-day trip when, his son says, a North Korean official took him off a plane and detained him. (Via KNTV)
"Apparently five minutes before they were ready to depart, an authority came on to the plane ... and he was asked to leave the plane." (Via CNN)
Newman's traveling companion told Jeff Newman that North Korean officials met with his father the day before he was detained to discuss his service in the Korean War 50 years ago.
NBC News reports: "Jeffrey Newman said his father was slightly unnerved by the meeting with North Korean officials but thought nothing more of it until he was hauled off his flight."
All indications show Newman was there legally; he had all the necessary documents and was accompanied his entire visit by North Korean tour guides recommended to him. So why would he have been detained?
Well, this wouldn't be the first time North Korea has held a U.S. citizen arbitrarily. Just a year ago, U.S. Christian missionary Kenneth Bae was arrested and sentenced to 15 years hard labor for allegedly plotting a religious coup. (Via YouTube / NTDTV)
Despite efforts by the U.S. State Department, Bae has yet to be released. The San Jose Mercury News offers an interesting reason for why Newman may have been detained.
He may have " ... been confused with a decorated Marine Corps 2nd lieutenant with a strikingly similar name Awarded the Silver Star in 1952 for heroically leading his men against North Korean troops. Merrill H. Newman of Fairview, Ore. ... said 'it is kind of creepy' that a Korean War veteran of so similar a name is now imprisoned in North Korea."
Jeff Newman says his father has a "deep respect" for the Korean people and their culture, which is why he wanted to visit the country. The U.S. State Department issued a travel warning telling all Americans not to go to North Korea shortly before news broke of Newman's detention. They say they're currently working to secure Newman's release.