(CNN) — Merrill Newman — the 85-year-old American detained by North Korean authorities earlier this fall — has been “deported,” North Korea’s state news agency reported early Saturday.
The KCNA report stated that investigators determined that “Newman entered the DPRK with a wrong understanding of it and perpetrated a hostile act against it.”
“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 his family, the Palo Alto, California, resident had gone on a 10-day organized private tour of North Korea in October. From phone calls and postcards he sent, the trip was going well and there was no indication of any kind of problem, son Jeff Newman said.
The day before he was to leave, “one or two Korean authorities” met with Newman and his tour guide, the son added. They talked about Newman’s service record, which left “my dad … a bit bothered,” according to Jeff Newman.
Then, just minutes before his Beijing-bound plane was set to depart Pyongyang in late October, he was taken off the aircraft by North Korean authorities.
For weeks, the Pyongyang government didn’t explain why they were holding Newman.
An explanation came a few days ago, when state media published and broadcast what they described as the Korean War veteran’s “apology.” In fact, that word — “apology” — was written atop the first of four handwritten pages detailing his alleged indiscretions.
In the note — which was dated November 9 — Newman talked about his having advised the Kuwol Unit, part of the “intelligence bureau” fighting against Pyongyang during the Korean War. He detailed how he commanded troops to collect “information” and wage various deadly attacks.
“After I killed so many civilians and (North Korean) soldiers and destroyed strategic objects in the DPRK during the Korean War, I committed indelible offensive acts against the DPRK government and Korean people,” Newman said, according to that KCNA report.
The reported message also touched on his return 60 years later to North Korea, admitting that he “shamelessly … had a plan to meet any surviving soldiers and pray for the souls of the dead soldiers.”
His statement ended: “If I go back to (the) USA, I will tell the true features of the DPRK and the life the Korean people are leading.”
After this report came out, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the U.S. government was “deeply concerned” about Newman and Kenneth Bae, another American being held in North Korea.
Bae was arrested in November 2012. Last May, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor after North Korea’s government found him guilty of “hostile acts” and attempts to topple the government.