An 85-year-old American man detained and later let go by North Korean authorities described his time in custody as comfortable.
Merrill Newman, who returned to the United States this weekend, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel in California that he was kept in a hotel room, not a jail cell, and fed traditional Korean food during his detention. If anything, he was “bored,” the newspaper reported he said.
For weeks, the North Korean government offered no explanation as to why they were holding Newman. An explanation finally came last month, when state media published and broadcast what they described as the Korean War veteran’s “apology.” The word was written atop the first of four handwritten pages detailing his alleged indiscretions.
When asked about the apology, Newman gave a smirk, according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “Obviously, that’s not my English,” he said.
A senior administration official said that Newman’s release was the result of direct contact between Washington and Pyongyang. The official said the North Koreans had told the Obama administration in a telephone call that they were releasing Newman; no explanation was offered.