Merrill Newman, the 85-year-old American veteran detained in North Korea several weeks ago, was released on Saturday without explanation.
Newman was shown on a video in Beijing airport walking through a crowd of reporters.
"I'm very glad to be on my way home," Newman told reporters, according to CNN. "And I appreciate the tolerance the DPRK government has given to me to be on my way."
The elderly Palo Alto, Calif. retiree was seized on October 28 after visiting the country for just over a week as a tourist.
Newman was met by US embassy staff after his release and put on a flight to San Francisco where he will arrive on Saturday around noon.
He was "deported" from North Korea without explanation despite an apparent "admission" last week that he had engaged in wrongdoing.
Newman's apology appeared in a video in which he reads from a prepared statement that is full of grammatical mistakes and run-on sentences - not likely written by an English speaker.
He expressed regret for his actions during the war in the 1950s, in which he trained anti-communist guerilla fighters for the US army.
His release coincides with a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to South Korea, where he attended a ceremony honoring Korean war veterans.
Biden offered Newman a ride home on Air Force 2 but the elderly man refused, saying that he wanted a more direct flight home.
"As he pointed out, there's a direct flight to San Francisco, so I don't blame him, I'd be on that flight too," Biden said.