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North Korea 'deports' Merrill Newman, CNN says

Palo Altan heads home after North Korea releases him

CNN is citing a North Korean state news agency report that Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old Palo Alto resident detained by North Korean authorities earlier this fall, has been "deported."

The KCNA reported early Saturday Korean time that investigators determined that "Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it," CNN said.

"Taking into consideration his admittance of the act committed by him on the basis of his wrong understanding (and the) apology made by him for it, his sincere repentance of it and his advanced age and health condition, the above-said institution deported him from the country from a humanitarian viewpoint," the official North Korean report added, according to CNN.

Newman was taken off a plane in Pyongyang by North Korean authorities on October 26, following a brief trip to the isolated East Asian nation, his family said.

Newman and his wife, Lee, live at Channing House in Palo Alto.

On Nov. 29, the Korean Central News Agency released a letter written by Newman apologizing for his actions as an adviser to a South Korean guerrilla group in the Korean War, 60 years ago. The news agency also released a video of Newman reading the apology.

"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," he said.

The Korean news agency stated that the reason for his visit had been to contact the survivors -- and the family of the survivors -- from the organization he had allegedly advised during the war, more than 60 years ago.

"Shamelessly I had a plan to meet any surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead soldiers in Kuwol Mt. (the organization he allegedly was an adviser for) during the Korean war," the letter stated. "Following the itinerary I asked my guide to help me look for the surviving soldiers and their families and descendants because it was too hard for me to do myself."

Newman was visited by the Swedish ambassador, who serves as an intermediary between the U.S. and North Korea because of those two countries' chilly relationship.

— Palo Alto Weekly staff

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