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Posts tagged ‘Pyongyang’

NKorea’s Kim Claims Strength After Removal of ‘Factionalist Filth’.


SEOUL, South KoreaKim Jong Un boasted Wednesday that North Korea enters the new year on a surge of strength because of the elimination of “factionalist filth” — a reference to the young leader’s once powerful uncle, whose execution last month has raised questions about Kim’s grip on power.

Kim’s comments in an annual New Year’s Day message, which included a call for improved ties with Seoul, will be scrutinized by outside analysts and governments for clues about the opaque country’s intentions and policy goals.

There’s widespread worry about the country’s future since Kim publicly humiliated and then executed his uncle and mentor, one of the biggest political developments in Pyongyang in years, and certainly since Kim took power two years ago after the death of his father, Kim Jong Il.

North Korea’s “resolute” action to “eliminate factionalist filth” within the ruling Workers’ Party has bolstered the country’s unity “by 100 times,” Kim said in a speech broadcast by state TV. He didn’t mention by name his uncle, Jang Song Thaek, long considered the country’s No. 2 power.

Kim called for an improvement in strained ties with South Korea, saying it’s time for each side to stop slandering the other. He urged Seoul to listen to voices calling for unification between the countries.

The language on unification, which is similar to that of past New Year’s messages, is an obvious improvement on last year’s threats of nuclear war, though there is still deep skepticism in Washington and Seoul about Pyongyang’s intentions.

North Korea’s authoritarian and secretive government is extremely difficult for outsiders to interpret, and analysts are divided about the meaning of Jang’s execution on treason charges.

Many, however, believe that the purge shows Kim Jong Un struggling to establish the same absolute power that his father and grandfather enjoyed. The public announcement of Jang’s fall opened up a rare and unfavorable window on the country’s inner workings, showing an alleged power struggle between Kim and his uncle after the 2011 death of Kim Jong Il.

Jang’s public downfall was seen as an acknowledgment of dissension and loss of control by the ruling Kim dynasty. That has caused outside alarm as Kim Jong Un simultaneously tries to revive a moribund economy and pushes development of nuclear-armed missiles.

Seoul worries that instability caused by Jang’s execution could lead to Pyongyang launching provocations to help consolidate internal unity. Attacks blamed on North Korea killed 50 South Koreans in 2010, and tension on the Korean Peninsula still lingers, although Pyongyang has backed away from war rhetoric from early last year that included threats of nuclear attacks against Washington and Seoul.

Recent indications that North Korea is restarting a mothballed reactor that can produce plutonium for bombs has caused deep skepticism in Washington and Seoul about Pyongyang’s recent calls for a resumption of long-stalled nuclear disarmament talks.

The country conducted its third nuclear test in February. It’s estimated to have a handful of crude nuclear devices and to be working toward building a warhead small enough to mount on a long-range missile, although most experts say that goal may take years to achieve.

In comments that mirror past North Korean propaganda, Kim also said South Korean and U.S. “war mongers” were working “frantically” to bring nuclear attack devices to the peninsula and surrounding areas, part of training for northward nuclear attacks. An accidental conflict, he said, could trigger “an enormous nuclear catastrophe,” which would threaten U.S. safety.

North Korea was shaken by nuclear-capable U.S. bombers that flew over the peninsula last year after Pyongyang made war threats. Pyongyang’s state-controlled media regularly accuses Washington and Seoul of plotting to attack the North and overthrow its government, something the allies deny.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula technically in a state of war. About 28,500 American troops are deployed in South Korea to help deter North Korean aggression.

There had been some early hope in Washington that Pyongyang could see change under Kim Jong Un’s rule. Kim’s government reached an agreement in early 2012 with Washington for a nuclear freeze in exchange for U.S. food aid.

It was meant to pave the way for full-fledged negotiations on the North’s nuclear program, but the North wrecked the deal within weeks when it launched a rocket in defiance of a U.N. ban.

Kim has since overseen a nuclear and missile test, other high-profile purges and a barrage of threats. Kim Jong Il took a much more low-profile approach when he rose to power after the 1994 death of his father, the country’s founder, Kim Il Sung.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

2 Years Into Kim Jong Un’s Reign, Deeper Darkness Settles Over North Korea.


Kim Jong Un
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un attends a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party politburo in Pyongyang. (Reuters/KCNA )

It began with a media frenzy. Six months into Kim Jong Un’s new reign over North Korea, the Internet was filled with images and video of the smiling new leader waving to his beloved people.

ABC news reported the “youthful supreme leader” was “attempting to forge a new image for himself and his country” by allowing women to wear pants and endorsing banned foods like French fries and pizza. A few months before, on Jan. 1, 2012, the newly minted leader of the world’s most militant regime had publicly called for an end to the almost-50-year-old confrontation between the two Koreas.

The facade was not to last. Even as International Christian Concern (ICC) pointed out, the lack of any significant reforms to the regime’s despotic policy toward religious minorities, the Kim Jong Un government was pumping more resources into expanding its horrific system of political prison camps, known as “Kwan-li-so.”

On Dec. 4, Amnesty International released new satellite images of the camps where generations of families, many of them Christian, are sent to starve or work themselves to death. The images revealed that rather than close or curtail the growth of the nightmare camps, Kim Jong Un was working on their expansion.

All of this news, though, paled in comparison with the sheer brutality of the report ICC received last month on Nov. 11. According to a South Korean news source, at least 80 people were publicly executed in seven cities across North Korea on the same day. Their so-called “crimes” included watching South Korean movies, distributing pornography and the “possession of Bibles.” At least one of those Bible owners was tied to a post in the center of a sports stadium, a bag placed over their head, as they were torn apart by machine gun fire until their body was “hard to identify afterwards.” Families of the “criminals” were reportedly sent to the Kwan-li-so.

The executions were widely viewed as a move by the only 30-year-old leader to consolidate his grip on the populace.

One source intimately familiar with the reclusive nation told ICC, “It just shows that Kim Jong Un is still trying to consolidate power, and I think this is an indication of his failure to do so.”

As to why Christians were among those executed, the source said, “I am sure all those executed knew information from the outside and [among them] were certainly Christians. The DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of North Korea] has always considered Christians their greatest threat.”

Any doubts remaining that Kim Jong Un was determined to secure his position at all costs died last week when the state-controlled media announced that Kim’s uncle, Jang Song Thaek, had been publicly removed from his position of authority and executed only days later.

Jang was widely believed to be untouchable as the second most powerful figure in the country. Within a week of his execution, massive purges were erasing all references to Jang Song Thaek from North Korea’s history books.

What all of this repression means for Kenneth Bae, a U.S. missionary who recently became the longest-serving American prisoner in North Korea since the end of the Korean War, is anyone’s guess.

Bae is serving out a 15-year sentence of hard labor after being arrested in late 2012 for allegedly trying to overthrow the hyper-paranoid state. Bae, who has been described as a “devout Christian,” was providing legal tours into North Korea while conducting quiet humanitarian work. Of course, in a nation where as many as 70,000 Christians are interned in the modern-day equivalent of concentration camps for simply being Christians, Bae’s sentence is tragically unsurprising.

Yet even as a deeper darkness appears to be settling over North Korea, there is some cause for hope. For the first time ever, and thanks in part to Christian advocates, the United Nations has a “Commission of Inquiry” into the atrocities being committed in the country. Its ultimate goal: to conclude if North Korea has committed “crimes against humanity” (a foregone conclusion for many).

Testimony given to the commission this year by defectors and survivors of the Kwan-li-so has already raised the profile of North Korean crimes substantially, giving hope that significant international pressure on the regime will soon be brought to bear.

Most notable, and perhaps even more significant in this author’s opinion, is that after 65 years of total war directed at Christianity, an unbelievably determined remnant of believers still free inside the country continues to hold fast to their faith.

In late October, new and exceedingly rare footage of underground believers quietly praying and singing in their homes was released by a Christian nongovernmental organization. The footage, which may have cost some believers the ultimate price to obtain, is emphatic proof that no amount of totalitarianism has been able to completely extinguish the fire that faith ignites.

If China’s current unprecedented revival is any indication, the final death knell of the modern world’s most evil regime (whenever it comes) may herald in an era of spiritual renewal led by a core of Christian leaders whose faith survived insurmountable odds. One day, Pyongyang may even earn again its old title, “Jerusalem of the East.”

This article originally appeared on persecution.org.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

Ex-NBA Star Rodman Leaves NKorea Without Meeting With ‘Friend’ Kim.


BEIJING — Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman returned on Monday from a four-day trip to isolated North Korea saying he was not concerned that he had not met leader Kim Jong Un and he would “see him again.”

This was Rodman’s third trip to the North Korean capital, Pyongyang. Previously, he spent time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.

An entourage of burly men pushed their way through a scrum of journalists waiting for Rodman at Beijing airport. Rodman answered only a few of the questions thrown at him on the run.

Asked whether he was disappointed not to see Kim this time around, Rodman said: “Nope, I don’t worry about it, I will see him again.”

Rodman said before leaving he was going to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training during the trip.

“It was awesome, man,” he said of the training he conducted.

Rodman intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former National Basketball Association stars to hold basketball games on Kim’s birthday.

“We’re going to be playing in two weeks,” he said.

Rodman’s latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed this month.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events as a “reign of terror”. The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive government.

Ahead of the trip, Seoul-based North Korean human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk said in an open letter in the Washington Post that Rodman should talk to Kim about human rights abuses in North Korea.

Rodman told Reuters last week it was not his place to talk about such issues.

Rodman’s first visit in February came shortly after North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in defiance of U.N. resolutions. Rodman said upon his return from that trip that Kim wanted to receive a call from President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan.

The White House has said the United States has direct channels of communication with North Korea and declined to directly respond to Rodman’s message that Kim hoped to hear from Obama after his previous visit.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

Rodman Trains NKoreans for Kim Birthday Game; NBA Stars Fear Trip.


PYONGYANG, North Korea — Former NBA star Dennis Rodman held tryouts Friday for a North Korean team to face a dozen NBA veterans in an exhibition game on leader Kim Jong Un‘s birthday next month — though he hasn’t convinced all the players on the American team that it’s safe to come to Pyongyang.
The flamboyant Hall of Famer said plans for the Jan. 8 game are moving ahead but some of the 12 Americans he wants are afraid to come.

Editor’s Note: Abe Transforming Japan’s Defense to Counter Chinese Threat 

Some foreign analysts say the dramatic purge and execution of Kim’s once-powerful uncle less than a week ago has cast doubt on Kim’s future. But officials here say there is no instability and Kim remains firmly in control.
“You know, they’re still afraid to come here, but I’m just telling them, you know, don’t be afraid man, it’s all love, it’s all love here,” Rodman told The Associated Press after the tryouts at the Pyongyang Indoor Gymnasium. “I understand what’s going on with the political stuff, and I say, I don’t go into that venture, I’m just doing one thing for these kids here, and for this country, and for my country, and for the world pretty much.”
Rodman, who arrived in Pyongyang on Thursday, said he expects to announce the roster soon. He also said he is planning another game in June.
Rodman, wearing a pink button-down shirt and puffing on a cigar, watched as a couple dozen local players took to the basketball court for the tryouts. After the session, he told the players that each of the 12 he chooses will get two new pairs of tennis shoes.
When asked why he liked basketball, North Korean player Kim Un Chol told Rodman he started playing the game because he was impressed by it on TV, and said he also wants to be good at the sport because it is a favorite of leader Kim and his late father, Kim Jong Il.
Rodman asked all the players if they felt the same way. They nodded in unison.
“I want you guys to do one thing for your leader,” Rodman then told them. “It’s his birthday. It’s a very special, special day for the country.”
Rodman and Kim have struck up an unlikely friendship since he traveled to the secretive state for the first time in February with the Harlem Globetrotters for an HBO series produced by New York-based VICE television.
He remains the highest-profile American to meet Kim since the leader inherited power from his father in 2011.Known as much for his piercings, tattoos and bad behavior as he was for basketball, Rodman has mostly avoided politics in his dealings with the North and has avoided commenting on the North’s human rights record or its continued detainment of American Kenneth Bae for allegedly committing anti-state crimes.

On Friday, he stressed that he hopes the game will be friendly, without political or nationalistic overtones.

Editor’s Note: Outclassed Chinese Navy Defies Outnumbered 7th Fleet

He said the former NBA players will take on the North Koreans in the first half, but the teams will be mixed for the second half.
“It’s not about win or loss. It’s about one thing — unite two countries,” Rodman said.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Rodman: I’m Going to NKorea for Fun, Not to Talk Politics.


BEIJING — Retired U.S. basketball star Dennis Rodman said Thursday he was not going to North Korea to talk about politics or human rights, despite political tension surrounding the execution of leader Kim Jong Un‘s uncle.

Rodman has visited Pyongyang twice before, spending time dining as a guest of Kim, with whom he says he has a genuine friendship.

His latest visit follows the rare public purge of Kim’s powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek, who was executed last week.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has described recent events as a “reign of terror”. The purging of Jang, considered the second most powerful man in the North, indicated factionalism within the secretive Pyongyang government.

“It has nothing to do with me. I mean, whatever his uncle has done, and whoever’s done anything in North Korea, I have no control over that. I mean, these things have been going on for years and years and years,” Rodman told Reuters at his hotel in Beijing on Thursday before he left for the airport.

“I’m just going over there to do a basketball game and have some fun,” he said.

The U.S. State Department has sought to distance the U.S. government from Rodman’s visit.

Ahead of the trip, Seoul-based North Korean human rights activist Shin Dong-hyuk said in an open letter in the Washington Post that Rodman should talk to Kim about human rights abuses in North Korea.

Rodman said it was not his place to talk about such issues.

“People have been saying these things here and there. It doesn’t really matter to me. I’m not a politician. I’m not an ambassador,” he said. “I’m just going over there to try and do something really cool for a lot of people, play some games and try to get the Korean kids to play.”

“Everything else I have nothing to do with. If it happens that he wants to talk about it then great. If it doesn’t happen I just can’t bring it up because I don’t [want] him to think that I’m over here trying to be an ambassador and trying to use him as being his friend and all of a sudden I’m talking about politics. That’s not going to be that way,” Rodman said.

Rodman is expected to provide North Korea’s national basketball team with four days of training during the trip.

He also intends to return to Pyongyang in January with a team of fellow former NBA stars to hold basketball games on Kim’s birthday.

Rodman’s trip was arranged by Irish bookmakers Paddy Power, which has a history of controversial advertising campaigns.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: Newsmax.com

LIGNET: North Korea’s Brutal Purge Raises Serious Security Questions.


Image: LIGNET: North Korea's Brutal Purge Raises Serious Security Questions

Jang Song Thaek, left, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, watches a military parade during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the birth of Kim’s father, the late leader Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang on Feb. 16, 2012. (Kyodo via AP Images)

The uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un stood accused of treason, corruption, drug use, and womanizing, but no one outside the Hermit Kingdom knows for sure why he was purged and executed. Whatever was behind this chilling turn of events may reflect growing instability within the North Korean leadership and is being viewed by analysts as significant in terms of the country’s complex and close relationship with China.

Click here to read the full analysis from top experts at LIGNET.com.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

Freed US Veteran Says NKorea ‘Confession’ Made Under Duress.


A U.S. Korean war veteran held for over a month in North Korea said Monday that a videoconfession” released during his detention was made under duress.

Eighty-five year-old Merrill Newman, who was released last week and is now back home in California, said he was warned that he could be jailed for 15 years for spying if he did not cooperate.

Newman, who was on a guided tourist trip to the reclusive state, added that he believes North Korean authorities misunderstood his “curiosity as something more sinister” when he asked about North Korean war veterans.

The U.S. retiree was plucked off a plane on October 26 as he was leaving Pyongyang following a tourist visit. He was eventually freed and arrived back in California on Saturday.

He said a video “confession” was written for him by a non-native English speaker, adding that he emphasized the mistakes when he read it out, so that his family and others would know they were not his own words.

“Anyone who has read the text of it or who has seen the video of me reading it knows that the words were not mine and were not delivered voluntarily,” he said in a statement.

“Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me ‘confess’ to.”

And he said: “To demonstrate that I was reading the document under some duress, I did my best to read the ‘confession’ in a way that emphasized the bad grammar and strange language that the North Koreans had crafted for me to say.

“I hope that came across to all who saw the video,” he added.

Regarding why he was detained, he said he had concluded that, “for the North Korean regime, the Korean War isn’t over and that even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner.”

His mistake, he believes, was to ask to visit the area of Mount Kuwol where he had served during the Korean War, and then asked North Korean authorities if any veterans from that area were still alive.

“I innocently asked my North Korean guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive, and expressed an interest in possibly meeting them if they were,” he said.

“The North Koreans seem to have misinterpreted my curiosity as something more sinister.

“It is now clear to me the North Koreans still feel much more anger about the war than I realized. With the benefit of hindsight I should have been more sensitive to that,” he added.

© AFP 2013
Source: Newsmax.com

War Veteran Held by North Korea Reunited With Family in US.


Image: War Veteran Held by North Korea Reunited With Family in US

Merrill Newman, left, walks beside his wife Lee and son Jeffrey after arriving at San Francisco International Airport, Saturday, Dec. 6, 2013, in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

A tired but smiling 85-year-old U.S. veteran detained in North Korea for several weeks returned home Saturday to applause from supporters, yellow ribbons tied to trees outside his home and the warm embrace of his family.Merrill Newman arrived at the San Francisco airport after turning down a ride aboard Vice President Joe Biden‘s Air Force Two in favor of a direct flight from Beijing.

He emerged into the international terminal smiling, accompanied by his son and holding the hand of his wife amid applause from supporters. He spoke briefly to the assembled media, declining to answer questions about his ordeal.

“I’m delighted to be home,” he said. “It’s been a great homecoming. I’m tired, but ready to be with my family.”

He also thanked the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, North Korea, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing for helping to secure his release. He declined to answer any questions and didn’t discuss his detention.

Newman was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea, a visit that came six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean wartime guerrillas during the 1950-53 war.

Last month, Newman read from an awkwardly worded alleged confession that apologized for, among other things, killing North Koreans during the war. Analysts questioned whether the statement was coerced, and former South Korean guerrillas who had worked with Newman and fought behind enemy lines during the war disputed some of the details.

North Korea cited Newman’s age and medical condition in allowing him to leave the country.

Barbara Ingram, a friend and neighbor of Newman’s at the senior citizen complex where they live said residents broke into applause when news of Newman’s release was announced Friday during lunch.

“A great cheer went up,” Ingram said. “We are all so very relieved and grateful.”

Newman’s detention highlighted the extreme sensitivity with which Pyongyang views the war, which ended without a formal peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically in a state of war. The conflict is a regular focus of North Korean propaganda and media, which accuse Pyongyang’s wartime enemies Washington and Seoul of carrying on the fighting by continuing to push for the North’s overthrow.

The televised statement read last month by Newman said he was attempting to meet surviving guerrilla fighters he had trained during the conflict so he could reconnect them with their wartime colleagues living in South Korea and that he had criticized the North during his recent trip.

Members of the former South Korean guerrilla group said in an interview last week with The Associated Press that Newman was their adviser. Some have expressed surprise that Newman would take the risk of visiting North Korea given his association with their group, which is still remembered with keen hatred in the North. Others were amazed that Pyongyang still considered Newman a threat.

“As you can imagine this has been a very difficult ordeal for us as a family, and particularly for him,” Newman’s son Jeff Newman said in a statement read outside his home in Pasadena Friday night, adding that they will say more about this unusual journey after Newman has rested.

Newman’s release comes as Biden’s visit to the region brought him to Seoul. Biden said Saturday that he welcomed the release and said he talked by phone with Newman in Beijing.

___

Associated Press writers Eun-Young Jeong, Hyung-jin Kim, Foster Klug and Josh Lederman in Seoul, Martha Mendoza and Paul Elias in San Francisco, and Didi Tang and Aritz Parra in Beijing contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

Freed Veteran Arrives Home After NKorea Captivity.


Image: Freed Veteran Arrives Home After NKorea Captivity

Merrill Newman smiles upon arrival at Beijing airport on Dec. 7.

Merrill Newman, 85, the U.S. tourist and war veteran who was detained in North Korea for more than a month, arrived in San Francisco on Saturday to be reunited with his family after his deportation.

His United Airlines flight landed shortly after 9 a.m., a witness told Reuters.
witness said

“I feel good,” Newman told reporters at the Beijing airport,  adding with a laugh that the first thing he planned to do was “go home and see my wife.”

“I am very glad to be on my way home,” said Newman, who was held after he returned to the North six decades after his stint advising South Korean guerrillas still loathed by Pyongyang.

North Korea made the decision because the 85-year-old Newman had apologized for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and because of his age and medical condition, according to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who is traveling in Seoul, welcomed the release and said he played no direct role in Newman’s release.

Biden offered the elderly American a ride home on Air Force Two. But Newman declined, saying he preferred a commercial flight that would take him straight home to California within a few hours.

The Palo Alto, Calif., man’s flight to freedom was expected to arrive at San Francisco International Airport at 9:05 a.m.

Aside from an awkwardly worded alleged confession last month, Newman has yet to speak publicly since being taken off a plane Oct. 26 by North Korean authorities while preparing to leave the country after a 10-day tour.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf urged Pyongyang to pardon “as a humanitarian gesture” another American, Kenneth Bae, who has been held in the North for more than a year.

Members of a group of former South Korean guerrillas who fought behind enemy lines during the 1950-53 Korean War said in an interview last week with The Associated Press that Newman was their adviser. Some have expressed surprise that Newman would take the risk of visiting North Korea given his association with their group, which is still remembered with keen hatred in the North.

The televised statement read by Newman said he was apologizing for killing North Koreans during the war, attempting to meet surviving guerrilla fighters he had training during the conflict and reconnect them with their wartime colleagues living in South Korea, and criticizing the North during his recent trip.

Newman’s comments haven’t been independently confirmed. North Korea has a history of allegedly coercing statements from detainees.

Newman’s political value had “expired” for North Korea, said Chang Yong Seok, a senior researcher at Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. Newman’s written apology and the TV broadcast were enough for Pyongyang to show outsiders that it has maintained its dignity — something the proud country views as paramount, said Chang.

Chang said that detaining Newman also hurt impoverished Pyongyang’s efforts to encourage tourism. “Keeping a tourist who entered the country after state approval doesn’t look good for a country that is trying to boost its tourism industry,” Chang said.

Some of those former guerrillas of the Kuwol unit in Seoul remember Newman as a handsome, thin American lieutenant who got them rice, clothes and weapons during the later stages of the war but largely left the fighting to them.

Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and gave the fighters advice, but he wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations, according to the former rank-and-file members and analysts. Newman was scheduled to visit South Korea to meet former Kuwol fighters following his North Korea trip.

After he was detained, Newman was visited at a Pyongyang hotel by the Swedish ambassador, his family said in a statement, and he appeared to be in good health, receiving his heart medicine and being checked by medical personnel. Sweden handles American citizens’ interests in Pyongyang as the North and the United States have no formal diplomatic ties.

Jeffrey Newman has previously said that his father, an avid traveler and retired finance executive from California, had always wanted to return to the country where he fought during the Korean War.

Tension remains on the Korean Peninsula, though Pyongyang’s rhetoric against the U.S. and South Korea has toned down in recent weeks compared with its torrent of springtime threats to launch nuclear wars.

Before Newman, North Korea detained at least six Americans since 2009; five of them have been either released or deported after prominent Americans like former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter travelled to Pyongyang.

The country has held for more than a year Bae, the sixth detainee. He is a Korean-American missionary and tour operator who the North accuses of subversion.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Detained US Vet in NKorea Oversaw Guerrilla Group.


Image: Detained US Vet in NKorea Oversaw Guerrilla Group

Park Young, center, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit and his comrades look at a website reporting on Merrill Newman.

SEOUL, South Korea — Six decades before he went to North Korea as a curious tourist, Merrill Newman supervised a group of South Korean guerrillas during the Korean War who were perhaps the most hated and feared fighters in the North, former members of the group say.

Some of those guerrillas, interviewed this week by The Associated Press, remember Newman as a handsome, thin American lieutenant who got them rice, clothes and weapons during the later stages of the 1950-53 war, but largely left the fighting to them.

Editor’s NoteDomestic Pressure Drove Rouhani to Make Deal With WestNorth Korea apparently remembered him, too.

The 85-year-old war veteran has been detained in Pyongyang since being forced off a plane set to leave the country Oct. 26 after a 10-day trip.

He appeared last weekend on North Korean state TV apologizing for alleged wartime crimes in what was widely seen as a coerced statement.

“Why did he go to North Korea?” asked Park Boo Seo, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit, which is still loathed in Pyongyang and glorified in Seoul for the damage it inflicted on the North during the war. “The North Koreans still gnash their teeth at the Kuwol unit.”

Park and several other former guerrillas said they recognized Newman from his past visits to Seoul in 2003 and 2010 — when they ate raw fish and drank soju, Korean liquor — and from the TV footage, which was also broadcast in South Korea.

Newman has yet to tell his side of the story, aside from the televised statement, and his family hasn’t responded to requests for comment on his wartime activities.

Jeffrey Newman has previously said that his father, an avid traveler and retired finance executive from California, had always wanted to return to the country where he fought during the Korean War.

Newman’s detention is just the most recent point of tension on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has detained another American for more than a year, and there’s still wariness in Seoul and Washington after North Korea’s springtime threats of nuclear war and vows to restart its nuclear fuel production.

According to his televised statement, Newman’s alleged crimes include training guerrillas whose attacks continued even after the war ended, and ordering operations that led to the death of dozens of North Korean soldiers and civilians. He also said in the statement he attempted to meet surviving Kuwol members.

Former guerrillas in Seoul said Newman served as an adviser for Kuwol, one of dozens of such partisan groups established by the U.S.-military during the Korean War.

They have a book about the unit that Newman signed, praising Kuwol and writing that he was “proud to have served with you.” The book includes a photo of Newman that appears to be taken within the last 10-15 years.

But the guerrillas say most of the North’s charges were fabricated or exaggerated.

Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and gave the fighters advice, but he wasn’t involved in day-to-day operations, according to the former rank-and-file members and analysts.

He also gave them rice, clothes, and weapons from the U.S. military when they obtained key intelligence and captured North Korean and Chinese troops. All Kuwol guerrillas came to South Korea shortly after the war’s end and haven’t infiltrated the North since then, they say, so there are no surviving members in North Korea.

“The charges don’t make sense,” said Park, 80.

In the final months of the war, Newman largely stayed on a frontline island, living in a small wooden house, said Park Young, an 81-year-old former guerrilla.

“He ate alone and slept alone and lived alone,” said Park, one of 200 guerrillas stationed on the Island.

When the U.S. Eighth Army retreated from the Yalu River separating North Korea and China in late 1950, some 6,000 to 10,000 Koreans initially declared their willingness to fight for the United States, according to a U.S. Army research study on wartime partisan actions that was declassified in 1990.

The report says the U.S. Army provided training and direction to the partisans, who had some “measurable results.” But ultimately the campaigns “did not represent a significant contribution,” in part because of a lack of training and experience of Korean and U.S. personnel in guerrilla warfare.

The guerrillas aren’t alone in questioning Newman’s trip to North Korea.

“Newman was very naive to discuss his partisan background with the North Koreans,” Bruce Cumings, a history professor specializing in Korea at the University of Chicago, said in an email. “The South Korean partisans were possibly the most hated group of people in the North, except for out-and-out spies and traitors from their own side.”

Some analysts see Newman’s alleged confession as a prelude to his release, possibly allowing the North Koreans to send him home and save face without going through a lengthy legal proceeding.

North Korea has detained at least seven Americans since 2009 and five of them have been either released or deported. Korean-American missionary and tour operator Kenneth Bae has been held for more than year.

Editor’s Note: How China’s Air ID Zone Changes the Geopolitical Map of AsiaThe Korean War is still an extremely sensitive topic in North Korea. It ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula still technically at war.

“It seems absurd from a public relations standpoint to arrest an 85-year-old man who came with goodwill,” Cumings said. “But the North Koreans are still fighting the Korean War and grasp every chance they get to remind Americans that the war has never ended.”

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: Newsmax.com

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