North Korea: Detained U.S. Veteran Confesses to War Crimes

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Nov. 30 2013 11:36 AM

North Korea: Detained U.S. Veteran Confesses to War Crimes

Screengrab of video released by North Korea's state-run news agency showing Merrill Newman reading from a letter he had purportedly written as a confession

North Korea is accusing a detained U.S. veteran of having killed civilians during the Korean War six decades ago and of spying during his recent trip to the country. Pyongyang did not say whether it would release 85-year-old Merrill Newman, who was pulled off a plane more than a month ago as he was getting ready to leave the country after a tourist trip with a friend. After weeks of silence on the detention, lots of information was suddenly released Saturday by the state-run news agency, including a letter allegedly written by Newman, as well as a video.

Although it’s impossible to verify the authenticity of the letter, previous North Korea detainees have said they were coerced into writing apologetic letters that praise Pyongyang. “Newman’s letter, filled with grammatical errors and perplexing run-on sentences, appeared to be written by a nonnative English speaker,” points out the Washington Post. In the letter he not only apologizes for supposed crimes during the Korean War, but also for “hostile acts” during his trip to the isolated nation last month.  


Some highlights from Newman’s letter:

… As I gave 300 people with barbarity gone to the South who had ill feelings toward the DPRK from Chodo military education and guerilla training they later did attack against the DPRK although the armistice was signed.
Although I committed the indelible offensive acts against the Korean people in the period of the Korean War, I have been guilty of big crimes against the DPRK government and Korean People again.
I realize that I cannot be forgiven for my offensives but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives sincerely toward the DPRK government and the Korean people and I want not punish me.
On this trip I can understand that in US and western countries there is misleading information and propaganda about DPRK.
If I go back to USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.

The reference of his return to the United States “could be interpreted as a sign that the North Koreans were considering sending Mr. Newman home,” notes the New York Times.

Still, in a separate story, KCNA says that Newman “perpetrated acts of infringing upon the dignity and sovereignty of the DPRK” during his recent trip, adding that he “committed such crime as trying to look for spies and terrorists who conducted espionage and subversive activities against the DPRK.” (DPRK is short for Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.)

Although it is certainly unusual to go to North Korea for tourism, groups of US veterans have previously traveled to the country without much trouble. Earlier this month the State department issued a travel warning recommending U.S. citizens against traveling to North Korea

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.



Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

Stop Panicking. America Is Now in Very Good Shape to Respond to the Ebola Crisis.

The 2014 Kansas City Royals Show the Value of Building a Mediocre Baseball Team

The GOP Won’t Win Any Black Votes With Its New “Willie Horton” Ad

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?


Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

One of Putin’s Favorite Oligarchs Wants to Start an Orthodox Christian Fox News

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

Trending News Channel
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 7:23 PM Chipotle’s Magical Burrito Empire Keeps Growing, Might Be Slowing
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don't Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Oct. 20 2014 11:36 PM Forget Oculus Rift This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual-reality experience.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.