Jenkins Describes Life in North Korea
Friday, November 5, 2004 Posted: 05:24 AM JST
Charles Robert Jenkins, the spouse of Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga, was found guilty of desertion to North Korea Wednesday at Camp Zama near Tokyo. He was given a 30-day jail sentence. Jenkins, 64, who deserted to North Korea in 1965, described a life that was as bad or worse than in prison. Often he had no food, no electricity or water, and his U.S. Army tattoo was removed from his forearm with scissors and no anesthesia.
The military judge, Col. Denise Vowell, recommended that Jenkins' jail time be suspended. He was dishonorably discharged while his rank was reduced from sergeant to private. The Pentagon had hoped he would receive a far harsher sentence as the US is at war in Iraq, but Japan put a lot of pressure on the US to bring Hitomi Soga's tragic story to a quick happy ending.
Jenkins married Soga, a 19-year-old nurse who was abducted from Sado Island in Japan by North Korean agents in 1978, after they met in 1980. Soga and four other surviving abductees were returned to Japan in 2002. The Japanese public was shocked by their ordeal and feels enormous sympathy for the five, especially for Soga who had to leave behind her husband and two daughters in North Korea. She quietly waited for two years until the family was reunited in Indonesia in July of this year.
Jenkins wept as he described his depression, fears of death and heavy drinking in the days leading up to his desertion. He had feared being transferred to "hunt and kill" patrols in the Korean Demilitarized Zone and eventually to Vietnam, he said.
"I knew Vietnam was combat, and jungle warfare," he told the court. "I'd never been in the jungle in my life. How could I lead soldiers there?" Soga dramatically pleaded for her husband, saying "He loved us, his family, from his heart. I felt that he protected me."
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