American Held in N. Korea Oversaw Guerrillas
Kuwol fighters 'Pyongyang's most hated'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 3, 2013 3:53 AM CST
In this Nov. 9, 2013 photo Merrill Newman, 85, applies his thumb print to a document which North Korean authorities say was an apology which Newman wrote.   (AP Photo/KCNA via KNS)
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(Newser) – The detention of an 85-year-old American in North Korea appears to be revenge for his actions with a group of guerrilla fighters that did immense damage to the North during the Korean War, the AP finds in interviews with former members. Surviving fighters from the Kuwol partisan unit—glorified in the South but considered the most hated and feared fighters in the North—say Merrill Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and obtained rice, clothes, and weapons for the partisans, but wasn't involved in day-to-day fighting.

Newman, who has been detained for more than a month, has issued an apology for his "crimes against North Korea" that the former guerrillas believe was both coerced and fabricated. He had been scheduled to meet former Kuwol fighters—dozens of whom waited for him at the airport with flowers—in Seoul following his North Korea trip, but he was forced off the plane before it left Pyongyang. "It seems absurd from a public relations standpoint to arrest an 85-year-old man who came with goodwill," notes a Korean history specialist. "But the North Koreans are still fighting the Korean War and grasp every chance they get to remind Americans that the war has never ended."