PASADENA, California (Reuters) - An American veteran of the Korean War detained for more than a month in North Korea is in “excellent spirits” after his release, the 85-year-old man’s son said on Friday.
Merrill Newman was a U.S. special forces soldier in the 1950-53 war and worked with guerrillas fighting behind the lines. North Korea had called him a war criminal.
His son, Jeffrey Newman, told reporters outside his ranch-style home in Pasadena that the family spoke briefly with his father after he arrived in Beijing from Pyongyang.
“He is in excellent spirits and eager to be reunited with his family,” said Newman, who said he learned about his father’s release only 10 minutes before his arrival in Beijing.
“This is a great moment for us as a family and it will be even better when we are able to see him in a few hours,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.
“After Merrill comes home and has a chance to get some well-deserved rest, we will have more to say about his unusual and difficult journey,” Jeffrey Newman said.
“For now, we ask that you allow us time to be with him as a family. We also ask that you not forget that another American, Kenneth Bae, is still being held in (North Korea) and we hope that he too will be allowed to rejoin with his family.”
Bae, a Korean-American who worked as a Christian missionary and was convicted by North Korea in May of crimes against the state, has been serving a 15-year hard-labor sentence.
Reporting by Dana Feldman in Pasadena, California; Writing by Alex Dobuzinskis; Editing by Louise Ireland