December 3, 2013

North Korean Prisoners


Maggie: Tensions between the United States and North Korea are strained again. But this time, it is not over rockets but, rather, a grandfather. Tom Hanson has the latest.

Merrill Newman: In the U.S. and Western countries, there is misleading information and propaganda about DPRK.

Tom: 85-year-old Merrill Newman, the man in this video, is the latest American to be taken into custody by officials in North Korea. DPRK is short for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Over a month ago, the Korean War veteran was visiting North Korea as a tourist when just minutes before he was scheduled to leave the country, he was taken off his flight and detained. Merrill Newman’s family spoke with CBS this week.

Newman’s family member: Mom’s ready to fly to Beijing and then paddle a boat across to…

Newman’s mom: I said I would sit in the street. I would do whatever I could do.

Tom: North Korean officials arrested Newman for quote, ‘hostile acts’ against the state and accused him of being a criminal involved in the killing of civilians during the Korean War.

The Korean War started in 1950 between the communist-backed North and the American-backed South. An armistice, or an agreement to stop fighting, ended major combat three years later. However, a peace treaty was never signed and, technically, the two countries are still at war. North Korea has since cut itself off from the world. Ruled by the Kim family for 65 years, it is one of the most secretive and tightly controlled nations in the world. The media, which is controlled by the government, reported that Newman confessed his crimes.

Newman: They collected information of the KPA and attacked the communications system and killed three innocent operators.

Tom: But Newman is not alone. In fact, he is the just the latest in a string of Americans detained in North Korea. Many of the arrests made have been under the accusations of spying or crimes against the North Korean government.

Last year, Kenneth Bae was found guilty of trying to topple the government, and is serving fifteen years hard labor. In 2010, an American by the name of Aijalon Mahli Gomes was also detained, but he was released a few months later. And in 2009, two journalists were released from North Korea after being held for months.

So why does North Korea detain visitors for seemingly no reason? Some say it is to gain leverage. The international community imposed financial penalties on the country for its nuclear program and human rights problems. Now, the country could release some of its prisoners in exchange for some leeway on things like trade, financial aid and the development of those nuclear programs.

As for Bae, and now Newman, when and if they will be released is a mystery.

Tom Hanson, Channel One News.

Maggie: The U.S. State Department recently issued an updated travel advisory for North Korea warning about the quote, ‘arbitrary arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.’


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