Charles Jenkins: US soldier who defected to North Korea dies

Charles Jenkins: US soldier who defected to North Korea dies

A USA soldier who deserted to North Korea more than half a century ago, but who was eventually allowed to leave the secretive state, has died in Japan aged 77. Jenkins was forced to read the works of North Korean leaders like Kim Il Sung, teach English and suffer from hunger, beatings and non-consensual medical procedures such as cutting off a U.S. Army tattoo without anesthesia, Fox News reported.

At an emotional court martial in Japan in 2004, Jenkins - who had never gone to high school - said he deserted to avoid hazardous duty in South Korea and escape combat in Vietnam.

Jenkins was found collapsed outside his home in Sado in northern Japan on Monday and was taken to a hospital, where he was later pronounced dead, a group representing families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea said Tuesday.

The North Korean regime had other ideas.

While in North Korea he taught English to soldiers and portrayed an evil USA spy in a propaganda film.

He later married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese national who had been abducted by the communist nation in 1978.

US soldier who fled to North Korea for 'dog's life' DIES

In 1980, he says he was "presented" with Soga and forced to marry her, but that the two later fell in love. "I don't think they [North Korea] have the nerve to come and get me, but they could assassinate me with a bullet through the head from a distance". I looked at her one time. Mr Jenkins said that as foreign prisoners, they were treated better than ordinary North Koreans and given rations, even during the starvation that swept North Korea in the 1990s.

The Japanese government granted him permanent residency and he lived in Soga's hometown on Sado, a picturesque island in the Sea of Japan.

Jenkins and his children followed her two years later and were reunited in Indonesia, which doesn't have an extradition treaty with the US.

In Japan, he surrendered to the US Army, nearly four decades after he had defected, and was court-martialled.

North Carolina-native Jenkins was court-martialled by United States officials in 2004 and was sentenced to 30 days in prison.

Even while living in freedom, Mr Jenkins still remained afraid of his former captors, and was constantly anxious that he or his family would eventually be assassinated.


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