Tuesday, 21 May, 2019

Charles Jenkins: Cold War defector to North Korea dies

Charles Jenkins Charles Jenkins
Patty Aguilar | 12 December, 2017, 15:22

For the first 15 years of his time in North Korea, Jenkins lived with other three USA soldiers who defected to Pyongyang, as Jenkins recalled in his 2009 memoir The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea. Jenkins, who married a Japanese abductee and lived in Japan after their release in the 2000s, has died.

He collapsed outside his home, Japanese media reports said, and later died of heart problems in hospital.

His wife in a statement said that she is "very surprised" by his death and "cannot think of anything", according to AFP news agency.

He and three other American soldiers disappeared in 1965 while patrolling along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) dividing North and South Korea.

Jenkins, a former United States soldier from North Carolina, deserted the USA forces in South Korea and crossed the Korean demilitarized zone in 1965. Instead they were held in captivity by North Korea and subjected to brutal treatment. He was only 24 years old.

"I know I was not thinking clearly at the time, and a lot of my decisions don't make sense now, but at the time they had a logic to them that made my actions seem nearly inevitable", he wrote in his 2008 memoir.

The men were forced to study the teachings of then-leader Kim Il-sung; did translation work; and taught English. Bizarrely, they also found stardom by playing Western villains in Pyongyang's propaganda movies. Once when it was noticed he had a US Army tattoo, he was taken to the doctor to have it cut off without anesthesia. Soga had earlier returned to Japan with a group of other abductees.

In 1972, he was granted North Korean citizenship and given a simple home.

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"Well, I'll put it like this". I never had drunk so much alcohol'.

"I had never seen anybody so attractive", Jenkins recalled in his memoir, "She was wearing a white blouse, a white skirt, and white high-heel shoes".

The couple had two daughters, Mika and Blinda. He said he had planned to go to Russian Federation and turn himself in, and had not expected North Korea to keep him.

In 2002, Ms Soga was freed after negotiations by the Japanese government.

The family reunited under intense scrutiny from the press in Japan, where there was widespread sympathy. He was the only US Army defector to tell about life in North Korea.

He pleaded guilty to desertion and aiding the enemy and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to 25 days in a US military jail in Japan.

'You don't say no to North Korea.

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