Monday, April 21, 2014   

Former Pyongyang fighters point to detained American Newman as hand behind ruthless unit
(12-03 15:57)

Six decades before he went to North Korea as a curious tourist, Merrill Newman (Pictured) supervised a group of South Korean guerrillas during the Korean War who were perhaps the most hated and feared fighters in the North, former members of the group say.
Some of those guerrillas, interviewed this week by The Associated Press, remember Newman as a handsome, thin American lieutenant who got them rice, clothes and weapons during the later stages of the 1950-53 war, but largely left the fighting to them.
North Korea apparently remembered him, too.
The 85-year-old war veteran has been detained in Pyongyang since being taken off a plane set to leave the country October 26 after a 10-day trip. He appeared this weekend on North Korean state TV apologizing for alleged wartime crimes in what was widely seen as a coerced statement.
“Why did he go to North Korea?'' asked Park Boo Seo, a former member of the Kuwol partisan unit, which is still loathed in Pyongyang and glorified in Seoul for the damage it inflicted on the North during the war. “The North Koreans still gnash their teeth at the Kuwol unit.''
Park and several other former guerrillas said they recognized Newman from his past visits to Seoul in 2003 and 2010 _ when they ate raw fish and drank soju, Korean liquor _ and from the TV footage, also broadcast in South Korea.
Newman has yet to tell his side of the story, aside from the televised statement, and his family has not responded to requests for comment on his wartime activities. Jeffrey Newman has previously said that his father, an avid traveler and retired finance executive from California, had always wanted to return to the country where he fought during the Korean War.
According to his televised statement, Newman's alleged crimes include training guerrillas whose attacks continued even after the war ended, and ordering operations that led to the death of dozens of North Korean soldiers and civilians. He also said in the statement he attempted to meet surviving Kuwol members.
Former guerrillas in Seoul said Newman served as an adviser for Kuwol, one of dozens of such partisan groups established by the US-military during the Korean War. They have a book about the unit that Newman signed, praising Kuwol and writing that he was “proud to have served with you.'' The book includes a photo of Newman that appears to be taken within the last 10-15 years.
But the guerrillas say most of the North's charges were fabricated or exaggerated.
Newman oversaw guerrilla actions and gave the fighters advice, but he was not involved in day-to-day operations, according to the former rank-and-file members and analysts. He also gave them rice, clothes and weapons from the US military when they obtained key intelligence and captured North Korean and Chinese troops. All Kuwol guerrillas came to South Korea shortly after the war's end and haven't infiltrated the North since then, they say, so there are no surviving members in North Korea.
“The charges don't make sense,'' said Park, 80.
In the final months of the war, Newman largely stayed on a frontline island, living in a small wooden house, said Park Young, an 81-year-old former guerrilla.
“He ate alone and slept alone and lived alone,'' said Park, one of 200 guerrillas stationed on the Island.
When the US Eighth Army retreated from the Yalu River separating North Korea and China in late 1950, some 6,000 to 10,000 Koreans initially declared their willingness to fight for the United States, according to a U.S. Army research study on wartime partisan actions that was declassified in 1990.
The report says the US Army provided training and direction to the partisans, who had some “measurable results.'' But ultimately the campaigns “did not represent a significant contribution,'' in part because of a lack of training and experience of Korean and U.S. personnel in guerrilla warfare.
The guerrillas are not alone in questioning Newman's trip to North Korea.
“Newman was very naive to discuss his partisan background with the North Koreans,'' Bruce Cumings, a history professor specializing in Korea at the University of Chicago, said in an email. “The South Korean partisans were possibly the most hated group of people in the North, except for out-and-out spies and traitors from their own side.''
Some analysts see Newman's alleged confession as a prelude to his release, possibly allowing the North Koreans to send him home and save face without going through a lengthy legal proceeding.
AP writers Eun-Young Jeong in Seoul, Matthew Pennington in Washington and Martha Mendoza in California contributed to this report.


   
Other World breaking news:
(Flight MH370) Huge cost expected in search operation (04-17 17:53)
Ferry evacuation sparks fury (04-17 17:39)
Putin urges dialog in Ukraine (04-17 17:25)
NKorea protests to UK over Kim Jong-Un hair poster (04-17 17:21)
Heartbreaking text messages from students on sinking ferry in SKorea (04-17 15:44)
Firetruck crashes in California restaurant (04-17 11:22)
Fears grow for hundreds missing in SKorea ferry capsize (04-17 11:19)
Pope gives a lift to 2 kids in St. Peter's Square (04-16 18:53)
Former Co-op Bank chair charged with drug offenses (04-16 18:52)
UK lawmakers slam lax security in Taliban attack (04-16 18:06)

More breaking news >>

© 2014 The Standard, The Standard Newspapers Publishing Ltd.
Contact Us | About Us | Newsfeeds | Subscriptions | Print Ad. | Online Ad. | Street Pts

 


Home | Top News | Local | Business | China | ViewPoint | CityTalk | World | Sports | People | Central Station | Spree | Features

The Standard

Trademark and Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014, The Standard Newspaper Publishing Ltd., and its related entities. All rights reserved.  Use in whole or part of this site's content is prohibited.   Use of this Web site assumes acceptance of the
Terms of Use, Privacy Policy Statement and Copyright Policy.  Please also read our Ethics Statement.