Merrill Newman was on his way home to the Bay Area when he was removed from the plane and detained.
Few residents at a Palo Alto retirement community are talking about their neighbor, Merrill. North Korean authorities pulled the 85-year-old Korean War veteran off of his homebound plane on Oct. 26. His son, Jeff Newman, told CNN his father spoke to him the night before and said North Korean officials asked him about his military service during the Korean War.
"The Korean War was discussed and my dad's role in the service and the meeting concluded. I understand that my dad was a bit bothered, but really didn't go into any detail with his traveling companion," said Jeff.
Newman's friend, Bob Hamrdla, who also lives at the retirement community, would not go on camera. He was traveling with Newman and said in a written statement, "This has to be a terrible misunderstanding."
Daniel Sneider, a North Korean expert at Stanford's Shorenstein Asia Pacific Research Center, says this is no misunderstanding. He told us, "The North Koreans are very good at escalating tensions and using crisis as a negotiating tool. Is it going to attract ongoing attention? Absolutely, and I think for the American government, which after all has an obligation to protect American citizens, I think it's going to be a very serious issue."
Newman is actually the second American detained under the new leader, Kim Jong-un. Kenneth Bae, a missionary, was grabbed last year, but has received less publicity.