Charles R Jenkins

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Charles Robert Jenkins is an ex-US soldier who deserted his unit in Korea and went over to the North Korean side of the DMZ.

Charles R Jenkins, Sado
Charles R Jenkins
Jenkins was kept in North Korea from 1965-2004, at first in confinement with three other American deserters and later given more freedom. In 1980 Jenkins married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese nurse 19 years his junior. Soga, together with her mother, had been abducted by North Korean agents in 1978 from Sado Island in Niigata Prefecture. The couple had two daughters in the mid-1980s.

Charles R Jenkins
Jenkins photographed with Japanese celebrities

In 2002 Soga was allowed to return to her homeland supposedly for just a week by the North Korean authorities but her and the other abductees did not return to North Korea and the Japanese government lobbied for their families to be allowed to join them in Japan.

In 2004 Jenkins and his two daughters were released to Jakarta and then came to Japan. Jenkins was held for a symbolic 24 days for desertion by the US army at Camp Zama in Kanagawa and then released.

Jenkins now lives with his family on Sado Island and works at a souvenir shop selling rice crackers and other souvenirs at the Sado Rekishi Densetsukan (Sado Historical Folklore Museum), adjacent to Mano-gu, the tomb of the exiled Emperor Juntoku. When tourists drop off in the winter, Jenkins is not present at the shop but is replaced by a life-sized cardboard cut-out (see first image above).

Jenkins has written a book about his experiences in North Korea, which was produced as a Japanese-language version, entitled 告白 - (kokukaku, To Tell the Truth, 2005). An English book on Jenkins titled The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea came out in 2008.

Charles R Jenkins museum
Sado Historical Folklore Museum

Sado Historical Folklore Museum map


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