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Army deserter, Jenkins, to be freed.

Old 11-26-04, 12:51 PM
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Army deserter, Jenkins, to be freed.

CNN Story

TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- After 40 years in North Korea and less than one month in a U.S. military jail, Army deserter Charles Jenkins will become a free man on Saturday.

The release of Jenkins, 64, ends the longest desertion case on U.S. record.

Although American deserters from the 1940s are still on the military's wanted list, none has turned himself in after as long an absence as Jenkins, who abandoned his unit along the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea on January 5, 1965.

He turned himself in to the Army on September 11 and pleaded guilty at a court martial on November 3.

Then a sergeant, Jenkins claimed he left his unit on a freezing hillside primarily because he was afraid of being reassigned to face combat in Vietnam.

He said he had intended to cross into North Korea, then defect to the Soviet Embassy and eventually make his way back to the United States.

Instead, for the next 39 years he was held with three other American deserters, used as a propaganda tool and forced to teach English to North Korean military officer cadets.

Two of the three Americans have since died, but the third, James Dresnock of Richmond, Va., still lives in the North.

During his court martial, Jenkins described a harsh life in the isolated Stalinist state.

"For many years we lived in a one-room house that we all shared," he said in a statement to the court.

"We slept on the floor, there was most often no electricity, and we had no running water. We were allowed to bathe once a month, though in the summer we bathed more often in the river."

Jenkins said they were forced to study -- in Korean -- the philosophy of Kim Il Sung, which they did for 10 hours a day.

"If we didn't memorize enough, or were not able to recite portions of our studies on demand, we were then forced to study 16 hours a day on Sunday, which was our only day of rest," he said. "I longed to leave that place every day."

But while in North Korea, Jenkins also met and married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese woman who had been kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 to teach Japanese language and culture to its spies.

The marriage was what eventually got Jenkins his freedom.

In an unprecedented summit in 2002 with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted that his country had kidnapped Soga and several other Japanese.

North Korea then allowed Soga and the four other survivors to return home.

Fearing prosecution, Jenkins initially stayed behind.

Soga's effort to reunite her family generated great sympathy in Japan, however, and in July Tokyo arranged for the Rich Square, N.C., native and his two North Korea-born daughters to join Soga in Jakarta, Indonesia.

They were then whisked back to Japan, ostensibly because he needed emergency medical care for an abdominal problem.

Jenkins was discharged from a Tokyo hospital on September 11 and immediately turned himself in to U.S. military authorities at Camp Zama, the U.S. Army's Japan headquarters.

After arranging a plea bargain, he was convicted at the base just south of Tokyo and sentenced to one month in prison.

Two U.S. military sources confirmed that he was being released on Saturday, nearly a week early, for good behavior.

Jenkins has indicated that he intends to settle down in Japan with his wife and children.

He will remain on base until his formal discharge is completed. After that, Jenkins may still not be completely separated from the Army.

Until his automatic appeal process is completed, he could remain on "involuntary excess leave" status for one to two years.


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I think the right decision has been made. The man has suffered enough and I hope he finds peace in Japan.
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Old 11-26-04, 02:16 PM
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I think it looks okay to me, too. But, I can't say I have too much pity for him.

He put his trust in the enemy, and found out WHY they were our enemies. Hopefully, he understands now why America is worth fighting for.
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Old 11-26-04, 03:51 PM
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He swore to give give his life if necessary to defend the country, and he backed out on it. He doesn't deserve freedom. Better to have let him rot.
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Old 11-26-04, 04:10 PM
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the guy lived in the worker's paradise for like 40 years

isn't that punishment enough?
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Old 11-26-04, 04:28 PM
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He gets no pity from me.
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Old 11-26-04, 04:41 PM
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40 years in NK...that is truly enough punishment.
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Old 11-28-04, 08:28 PM
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The whole story was posted awhile back. It's truly heartbreaking to read the whole thing. Granted what he did was wrong but as far as I'm concerned he's paid his price to society several times over.
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Old 11-29-04, 02:10 AM
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Originally posted by kantonburg
The whole story was posted awhile back. It's truly heartbreaking to read the whole thing. Granted what he did was wrong but as far as I'm concerned he's paid his price to society several times over.
Agreed. He just wants to live his life. To eat, drink, laugh, love his family, watch his kids grow, like anyone else in the world. He's no threat to anyone and it would be a waste of the taxpayer money to do anything else with him.
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Old 10-23-05, 07:51 PM
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This story was on 60 minutes just now. I was watching and thought it sounded familiar
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Old 10-24-05, 05:12 PM
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i missed it. did he say anything interesting?
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