Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Life Imitates Art: The Unfortunate Incident of Merrill Newman in North Korea, and the Parallel with the novel, The Reunification of Joseph K.

On October 26, 2013, Merrill Newman, an 85 year-old American, was buckled in his seat on a plane preparing to depart Pyongyang's Sunan International Airport when a flight attendant pointed him out to two men in uniform. They promptly escorted him off the plane, according to his family and a traveling companion. Newman was traveling with a group out of Beijing on a tour bus through North Korea. Newman's wife and family haven't heard anything from him or his captors since, nor are the getting any information from American authorities.

America doesn't have diplomatic relations with the Democratic People's Republic of North Korea, so it has no embassy or consulate in Pyongyang -- no feet on the ground -- and has to work through the Swedish Embassy to get any information on why the North Koreans are holding Mr. Newman, although there is speculation that it has something to do with his being a veteran of the Korean War.

There is little to go on but speculation concerning why the North Koreans took an 85 year-old American hostage. North Korea and its government are way beyond rationale understanding, at least from a Westerner's viewpoint. The cult of Kim is difficult for even those educated in the language, history, and culture of the North to fully grasp.

This is part of the problem for the protagonist of my novel, The Reunification of Joseph K. I chose to model the story of Joseph Kimmelmann on the novels of Franz Kafka, because, like the characters in The Trial, and The Castle, once my protagonist is in the clutches of the North Koreans, he is helpless to determine why he's being held, let alone how to escape.

I sincerely hope that Mr. Newman is more fortunate than Mr. Kimmelmann.

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