Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 2 July 2004

Bizarre story of US GI who defected to (or was kidnapped by) North Korea

I don't recall ever having heard the name of Charles Robert Jenkins before. Apparently he is an Amercian GI who went missing in 1965 while leading a patrol near the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). The US Defense Department believes he deserted, whereas his family think he must have been kidnapped.

What is not disputed, though, is that during his time in North Korea he married a Japanese woman called Hitomi Soga who it seems was one of those unfortunate Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korea. A couple of years ago the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi secured the release of a number of these people, during a visit to Pyongyang, and Hitomi Soga was one of those who benefitted from this intervention. She, however, had to leave behind her husband and their two daughters, Belinda and Mika.

In a return visit to Pyongyang in May this year, Mr Koizumi obtained agreement for family reunions for four of those repatriated to Japan two years ago, but neither Mr Jenkins nor the two daughters apparently wished to leave. Now it seems that a reunion has been arranged in Indonesia with which the US has no extradition arrangements; this is convenient for Mr Jenkins. It is not clear if the two daughters will accompany their father, assuming they wish to, or whether they are being held back as 'ransom' for his return. This whole affair is very murky and I expect it will be some time before the full truth will emerge.

I recall hearing, soon after the two Germanies were reunited, that a few West Germans had defected to East Germany, although hugely greater numbers had gone in the other direction; I was surprised to learn of this, but as so many strange things seem to happen I just had to accept it. It is not impossible, I suppose, that a young American GI could choose to desert by going to a country such as North Korea, but it sounds at the very least to be extremely far-fetched to me - certainly this is the belief of Mr Jenkins' nephew.

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