Now 77-year-old Jenkins is a tourist guide in Japan
Charles Robert Jenkins (born February 18, 1940) is a former United States Army soldier who lived in North Korea from 1965 to 2004 after deserting from his unit, the 1st Cavalry Division along the Korean DMZ.
“Hi, are you there?” shouted Sgt. Jenkins in the dark Korean front line toward north. Soon he heard unintelligible Korean words and found himself surrounded by several shiny bayonets pointing at him. “I’m Sergeant Charles Jenkins of the United States Army,” said Jenkins in English and recited his dog tag number. “Excuse me,” said the American soldier and peed in the bush.
That was in January 1965. After drinking 10 cans of beers, the sergeant set off on his nightly patrol of the DMZ and crossed into North Korea. He wasn’t a communist sympathizer he just didn’t want to be transferred to the wrong war in Vietnam. He carried out his plot in the hope that he’d be sent to Russia and then eventually back to the United States. But Jenkins immediately regretted his action because he found his Pyongyang stay unbearably difficult.
Jenkins taught English at a university but North Koreans didn’t like his thick southern American accent because the country had adopted British English. In 1980, Jenkins met Miss Hitomi Soga, 21-year-old Japanese nurse who had been abducted by North Korean agents. Falling in love is the only freedom the people in the North had, so the boy from Texas and the girl from Japan married and produced two daughters in Pyongyang.
After assurance of protection from the Japanese government, he arrived in Japan with his daughters, and was met by his wife in July 2004. After spending some 39 years in the communist country, Jenkins surrendered himself to U.S. Army Camp Zama in Japan. He was sentenced to 30 days of confinement and received a dishonorable discharge.
Jenkins and his family settled on Sado Island (off East Sea or Japan Sea) in Japan, the home of his wife. The former U.S. Army sergeant now serves as a tour guide and smiles with visitors for photo sessions contributing to the island’s tourism.
“My life in the North was a bad ream, I’m very happy now,” the 77-year-old repeats to tourists. By the way Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins still speaks Korean at home.
By Nam Sang-so, February 3, 2017 (This article was edited and updated from the original text written by the same author published on January 22, 2013 by The Korea Times)