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The U.S. State Department has confirmed that North Korea has released Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old Korean War veteran from Palo Alto, Calif. He had been held by Pyongyang for over a month and appeared in a video ‘apologizing’ for actions during the war while he was detained.
In a short statement on Friday, a State Department spokesperson confirmed that Newman will be allowed to reunite with his family. The department also thanked the Swedish government for their efforts in getting Newman released.
Newman was visiting the country to see how it had changed in the 60 years since he had fought there in October. However, in November, his family said that they had not seen him since Oct. 26. He and a friend were about to leave North Korea when he was pulled off the plane. North Korea did confirm that they had detained him and had him appear in a video, reading a statement of ‘apology,’ which aired on state television.
At the moment, Newman is on his way home, much to the relief of his family.
“I'm very glad to be on my way home,” Newman told reporters in Beijing, reports USA Today. “I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] government has given to me to be on my way. I feel good. I feel good. I want to go home to see my wife.”
Officially, North Korea said that the reason it let Newman leave was because of the apology and his health. It is not known if he was forced to read that apology.
Despite this move, the State Department is still seeking the release of Kenneth Bae, an American citizen who North Korea has been holding for over a year now. “We call on the DPRK once again to pardon and grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediately release him as a humanitarian gesture so that he too can return home to his family,” the State Department said. “The U.S. Government will continue to work actively on his case.”