SAN FRANCISCO — The 85-year-old U.S. Korean War veteran who was detained for weeks by North Korea said Monday that the videotaped confession in which he apologized for killing North Koreans during the war was given involuntarily and under duress.
In a statement, Merrill Newman said he tried to show that the words he read on the recording were not his own by emphasizing the apology's awkward phrasing and poor English grammar.
"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," Newman said. "Anyone who knows me knows that I could not have done the things they had me 'confess' to."
The former Army lieutenant said that although the North Koreans treated him well during his detention at a Pyongyang hotel, an interrogator told him repeatedly that if he did not apologize for his alleged crimes during the Korean War and during his visit to the communist nation, he would be sentenced to 15 years in prison for espionage.
"Under these circumstances, I read the document with the language they insisted on because it seemed to be the only way I might get home," he said.
Newman, who was deported Friday and returned home to California on Saturday, was detained in late October at the end of a 10-day trip to North Korea.
He made the visit six decades after he oversaw a group of South Korean guerrillas during the war while serving in the U.S. Army's 8240th unit, an early special forces unit also known as the White Tigers, whose missions remained classified until the 1990s.