North Korea Detains 85-Year-Old American Korean War Vet

Man has been in custody for almost a month

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Stephen Lam / Reuters

: An exterior view of Channing House, a retirement community where 85-year-old Merrill Newman, a U.S. citizen, was said to be living in prior to being reportedly detained by North Korean authorities after a recent trip in North Korea in Palo Alto, California November 20, 2013

The North Korean government has been holding an 85-year-old Korean War veteran from the U.S. in custody for almost a month, according to his family.

Merrill Newman had been visiting the country as a tourist and was buckled into his seat on a plane bound for Beijing on Oct. 26 when two uniformed men boarded the plane and escorted him off the flight.

According to Newman’s son, authorities took his father into custody a day after he had spoken with North Korean officials about his time spent serving in the infantry during the war on the Korean Peninsula in the early 1950s.

“There has to be a terrible misunderstanding. I hope that the North Koreans will see this as a humanitarian matter and allow him to return to his family as soon as possible,” said Newman’s travel partner Bob Hamrdla in a press released published on Wednesday.

The North Koreans have yet to comment publicly on the case, leaving experts to speculate on why the aging retiree was arrested in the first place.

According to statistics compiled by the Los Angeles Times, Newman is the seventh American to be detained by the North Koreans since 2009, “but previous cases have involved Christian missionaries or people who illegally entered the country”.