TODAY   |  December 01, 2013

Family says man held in N. Korea is in good health

The family of an elderly American man detained in North Korea says he’s in good health, which comes as the White House calls for his release. NBC’s Joe Fryer reports.

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>>> the family of the 85-year-old american veteran being held in north korea says he's in good health. that information coming from the swedish ambassador who was able to visit merrill newman on saturday. and now the white house is calling for newman 's release.

>> reporter: after merrill newman received his first visitor, his family reported good news. he has received the medications that we sent him and medical personnel are checking on his health several times a day, they said in a statement. merrill reports he is being well treated and that the food is good. the white house released a statement this weekend saying it was deeply concerned about the welfare of newman along with american kenneth bay who was detained more than a year ago.

>> we're always hopeful that this increased attention to the case is moving things along, that it's moving in the right direction.

>> reporter: as for newman , he's a korean war veteran who now calls california home. last month he fulfilled a dream by returning to north korea for a nine-day visit, but a military officer took him into custody at the airport as he was about to leave. on saturday, video of newman surfaced. it was released by north korea 's state media which says newman apologized for alleged hostile acts including civilian deaths during the korean war . he could not be confirmed if newman himself wrote the four-page apology, but experts say the video could be a positive sign of north korea 's intentions.

>> this may be a prelude to figuring out what it can extract from the united states for this release and then the release.

>> reporter: for "today," joe friar, los