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Palo Alto man, 85, detained in North Korea

Original post made on Nov 20, 2013

A Palo Alto man was removed from a plane and detained in North Korea, his traveling companion to the country confirmed.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, November 20, 2013, 2:06 PM

Comments (25)

Posted by Stay-Away-From-North-Korea, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 20, 2013 at 2:19 pm

North Korea is not a nice place--for people living there, or for people who are just curious. If you are curious about this place, it would be a lot safer to read a book, or try to find some videos.

Here's hoping Mr. Newman is released quickly.


Posted by didn't know, a resident of Downtown North
on Nov 20, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I didn't even know that Americans were allowed to visit North Korea except as invited guests like Dennis Rodman or Eric Schmidt. How did he get a visa?


Posted by Info, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 5:03 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by charlie, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 6:04 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Info, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Didn't know asked how this person got a visa to North Korea. I posted a link to a website that provides guided tours to North Korea. What is wrong with that? The company is called Koryo tours. They are based in Beijing and Americans can obtain a visa to visit North Korea as part of a guided tour group. Understand now, editor??????


Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 20, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Wow! Why would someone arrest an 85 year-old man? What excuse will those crazy communists come up with this time?


Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Nov 20, 2013 at 11:48 pm

I'm sure he'll have better luck in the next leg of his vacation, Iran! ;-) Poor guy, I wonder what made him choose to decide to the go to North Korea? He should have checked out Venezuela instead.


Posted by Stay-Away-From-North-Korea, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:03 am

This VOA (Voice of America) press release answers a couple of questions--

Web Link

Mr. Merrill is supposed to have served as an Army Officer during the Korean War, in Korea, in the South. The US (UN) forces are north of the DMZ more than a couple of times, so it's hard to believe that Merrill had not actually been in North Korea during the War.

The following, from the VOA press release, might offer a clue as to what is going on:

North Korea has been accused of using foreign detainees as bargaining chips in negotiations with Western countries over its controversial nuclear weapons program.

It's always possible that Mr. Merrill was in the wrong place, and the at the wrong time, when the North Korean government was in the mood to try to bargin his freedom for some sort of concession from the US government.


Posted by David, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 21, 2013 at 9:17 am

Why would anyone in their right mind vacation in North Korea?


Posted by Enough!, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

WHY do Americans go to places that are hostile? It becomes a huge problem for them, their families, and the government.


Posted by Not Going There, a resident of Mountain View
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:20 am

Recently I've been seeing lots of lovely ads for vacationing in Korea. Even gave it a passing thought.

But the ads do not mention detaining American citizens!

Really makes me want to visit - NOT


Posted by notMyName, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2013 at 11:56 am

I heard that he fought North Korea in the Korean war. Perhaps that explains both why he wanted to go there and why he is still there.


Posted by Sean, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2013 at 12:34 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Nutzola, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Nov 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Knowing how they feel about the west, why would anyone of sound mind travel to North Korea for any reason? Especially when they threatened to nuke us a few months ago!


Posted by nuze, a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm

[Post removed.]


Posted by Perhaps because. . . , a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 21, 2013 at 8:49 pm

I read that he told his tour guide that he served in the Korean War. The person probably told Korean authorities who aren't going to be happy to hear that someone who killed their own is visiting their country.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:44 pm

Not Going There,

are you confusing North Korea and South Korea? I have not seen any vacation brochures for North Korea. Many thousands of Americans travel to
South Korea.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Nov 21, 2013 at 10:51 pm

CNN article on Western tourism to North Korea

Web Link


Posted by Midlander, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 7:48 am

I traveled to North Korea a couple of years ago with Koryo. It was a very interesting experience. The authorities attempt to provide a very controlled view, but some glimpses of reality did occasionally leak through. It was also interesting to see what the authorities regarded as important and how they chose to project their view of realty. Also the Mass Games were both more intense and more light-hearted (yes, really) than I had expected.

Koryo instructed us on a long list of do's and dont's. Some of these were quite non-obvious. Do not throw a way a newspaper with the Glorious Leader's photograph on the cover! That might be construed as an insult. Yikes.

The authorities try very hard to control any interaction between visitors and the local population. I noticed Mr Newman had been learning some Korean. Unfortunately trying to exercise that skill might easily have lead to inadvertent problems.


Posted by Pyongyers, a resident of another community
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:05 am

There are about 20 or so western companies taking tours in to North Korea, and all can offer visas for US tourists.

In this case the tour was provided by Juche Travel Services. Most tours these days have a western guide with the parties, but you can travel solely with Korean guides, as Mr Newman did.

A surprisingly high proportion of visitors are Americans, and they mostly have a great time. Mr Newman may in a moment when his guard was down - towards the end of the tour, trusts his guides, he's tired of not speaking his mind may have disclosed that he fought in the Korean War (if that's true), which is not a good idea. Korea is not Vietnam, the US and NK are not at peace.


Posted by Ray, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:00 am

I was thinking it might be a good idea for everyone to contact Rep. Eshoo (Web Link), Sen. Feinstein (Web Link) and Sen. Boxer (Web Link) and just let them know that its really important to you that Washington needs to stay on top of this and use every tool they have to bring Mr. Newman back quickly. It appears this story is in the national and international press, which is good, but it never hurts to reach out and let our elected officials know this needs to remain a priority until he is back here in Palo Alto!


Posted by citizen, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Nov 22, 2013 at 11:24 am

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do". I guess he is not following this common sense in NK, making "trouble", now US government has to rescue him. Best wishes for his early return, but don't try it again just because you think you are American, you can do anything you like in other parts of world.


Posted by Midlander, a resident of Midtown
on Nov 22, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Citizen, you are leaping to rather a lot of assumptions there. We don't know what happened, and we don't know whether Mr Newman did anything wrong. Let's wait until we know a lot more before assigning any blame here!


Posted by Perhaps because . . ., a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Midlander, that's the whole point. Other countries are not like America. I agree with Citizen. He didn't necessarily do anything wrong - they can detain him for any reason they want. For instance, why have they detained missionaries and forced them to 15 years of hard labor? When will Americans be grateful for our liberty, justice, and freedom? Life is cheap in many other countries.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Nov 23, 2013 at 1:56 pm

Ray has a good idea. Please advocate to have this husband, father, and a us resident back to the states. I hope the us uses every national and international assistance to get his release.


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