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American Held in North Korea has Berkeley Ties

The 85-year-old Palo Alto resident who has been detained in North Korea, Merrill Newman, is UC Berkeley alum who taught at high schools in Berkeley and Livermore.

The KRON 4 website posted this picture of detained Palo Alto man Merrill Newman and his wife Lee.
The KRON 4 website posted this picture of detained Palo Alto man Merrill Newman and his wife Lee.
By Kari Hulac

The son of a Palo Alto retiree detained in North Korea since Oct. 26 spoke to reporters this past week from his home in Southern California, saying that his father, Merrill Newman, had a "difficult" discussion with North Korean officials about his experiences during the 1950-53 war between U.S.-led United Nations forces and North Korea and ally China. 

The elder Newman, 85, received his bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's in education from Stanford and taught at high schools in Berkeley and Livermore before retiring and moving to a the Channing House retirement community in Palo Alto.

Jeffrey Newman of Pasadena told the Associated Press he's worried about his father's health — he needs heart medication — and he wants him home for Thanksgiving with his grandchildren.

The detention comes about a year after North Korea detained another American and as the U.S. State Department warns in a formal notice that Americans should avoid travel to the country.

Newman was traveling with his friend, longtime Stanford professor Bob Hamrdla, who was allowed to return. Hamrdla said in a statement that "there has to be a terrible misunderstanding" and asked for Newman to be quickly returned to his family.

Jeffrey Newman said he believed North Korea would eventually release his father after realizing that all they have is an "elderly traveler, a grandfather with a heart condition."

"We don't know what this misunderstanding is all about," he told the AP. "All we want as a family is to have my father, my kids' grandfather, returned to California so he can be with his family for Thanksgiving."


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