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The North Korean government has acknowledged that it is detaining an American citizen, although Pyongyang did not confirm the person’s identity. But the family of Palo Alto, Calif. veteran Merrill Newman, 85, are convinced that he is that citizen and his wife is pleading for his release.
As previously reported, Newman’s family told the media on Wednesday that they have not seen him since Oct. 26. He had fought in the Korean War and had booked a trip through an approved travel agency to visit where he fought, but just as his plane was about to leave, he was taken by authorities, Jeff Newman, his son, said.
At the time, North Korea hadn’t made an official statement, but U.S. envoy Glyn Davies called on the country to release Newman and another American citizen detained there, Kenneth Bae.
However, the U.S. State Department said Friday that North Korea told Swedish diplomats that they are holding an American, reports CNN. "We are working in close coordination with representatives of the Embassy of Sweden to resolve this issue and they also have requested on a daily basis consular access,” spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki told the media.
Meanwhile, Newman’s wife, Lee Newman, has issued a statement, stating, “The family feels there has been some dreadful misunderstanding leading to his detention,” reports The Associated Press.
She continued, “We have had no word on the state of his health, whether or not the medications sent to him through the Swedish Embassy in North Korea have been delivered or why he was detained.”
Newman’s case is puzzling, since he isn’t a journalist or, like Bea, a missionary. He was only a tourist, visiting to see how the country had changed since he fought there during the Korean War.