A U.S. Korean War veteran deported last week by North Korea after more than a month in detention said Monday he was forced by Pyongyang to "confess" to crimes against the nation.
Merrill Newman, 85, who flew home to California on Saturday, said in a statement that he was forced to read out a confession that "the North Koreans had crafted for me to say."
Newman, who had arrived in North Korea as a tourist in October, said his interrogator "made it clear that if I did not cooperate, I could be sentenced to jail for espionage for 15 years."
North Korea earlier released a document dated Nov. 9 as well as video footage of Newman reading it in which he said, "I cannot be forgiven for my offensives but I beg for pardon on my knees by apologizing for my offensives" against the North Korean government, according to the Korean Central News Agency.
But Newman said in his new statement, "To demonstrate that I was reading the document under some duress, I did my best to read the 'confession' in a way that emphasized the bad grammar and strange language that the North Koreans crafted...I hope that came across to all who saw the video."
He said he helped train "anti-Communist guerrillas" from the Mt. Kuwol area during the 1950-53 Korean War and "innocently asked my North Korean (tour) guides whether some of those who fought in the war in the Mt. Kuwol area might still be alive."
The remarks appear to have caused the North Korean government to detain him, he said.
Newman said he has come to "the conclusion that I just didn't understand that, for the North Korean regime, the Korean War isn't over and that even innocent remarks about the war can cause big problems if you are a foreigner."
But he said the North Koreans "treated me well during my detention" at a Pyongyang hotel by looking after his health and feeding him well.
On Nov. 30, North Korea said it had taken Newman into custody as "a criminal" as he "perpetrated acts of infringing upon the dignity and sovereignty" of the country and "slandering its socialist system."