[KS] Re: US North Korea GI Defector

T.N. Park tnpark at mac.com
Mon Jul 12 23:33:01 EDT 2004

Tracy wrote:
> Dear Korea Studies List,
> A few days ago Reuters  reported a man being reunited with his wife in
> Indonesia.  He was a GI who is thought to have defected to North Korea during
> the Korean War.  Has anyone heard of this man?  Is anything else known about
> him and his family?

The situation of Charles Robert Jenkins has been a major on-going story for
some time, particularly since North Korea admitted abducting Japanese
nationals and allowed surviving abductees (but not their families) to visit
Japan. Hitomi Soga, now forty-five years old, was among them, and it became
clear that she had married this "defector" from long ago whose case had up
until then largely been forgotten by all but the military and his family
back in the States.

What to do about Jenkins is an important issue right now. Koizumi is trying
to improve Tokyo-Pyongyang relations, which Seoul and Tokyo (and possibly
Washington) appear to think may be a good idea. The problem is that the
abductee issue almost certainly *must* be resolved for the Japanese
electorate to accept such a thing. [Think of the outrage that so many
Japanese people must be feeling: their fellow citizens are kidnapped off
beaches and taken away to a hostile country where they are forced to work
for that evil regime.]

But to resolve it, the abductees must be returned, and those that have
supposedly died must be reasonably accounted for. But the corollary of that
is that their family members in North Korea -- themselves essentially
Japanese citizens -- also be returned.

But poor Hitomi Soga, living in North Korea since being kidnapped in 1978,
finds her family torn apart: her children are being allowed to "return" to
Japan, as is her husband. But Mr. Jenkins fears that if he sets foot in
Japan, he will be turned over to US authorities and then convicted of
desertion and imprisoned. Naturally he is reluctant to go anyplace where the
US authorities could reach him.

A number of people have called on the US to just let the matter rest, citing
murky circumstances and the passage of time. His alleged defection (which
his family say was actually an abduction, followed by brainwashing) was in
1965, nearly four decades ago. At the very least, they are asking that the
US not try to extradite or otherwise take Jenkins into custody if he decides
to settle in Japan with his wife and daughters.

So that creates a situation in which, arguably, US policy over what is
essentially a trivial matter is holding up a major diplomatic development
which could help promote peace in the region. That's not to say that the US
position has no merit: if the military doesn't enforce the law when people
go AWOL, how can they exert authority over their personnel?

Anyway, to answer your question, it is something that has been in the media
for some time now.


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