Ex-US Army Soldier Who Defected to North Korea Dies at 77

December 12, 2017Dec 12, 2017

Fox News reports that Charles Jenkins, the former U.S. Army soldier who deserted to North Korea at the height of the Cold War, died on Monday at the age of 77. 

Reports claim that Jenkins collapsed outside of his home in Sado, located in northern Japan. The collapse occurred on Monday when he was quickly rushed to the hospital. Quickly after arriving, he was pronounced dead by authorities, who claim that Jenkins died of heart failure. 

Jenkins was originally from North Carolina and disappeared in January 1965 while on patrol along the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea. Later in life, Jenkins admitted that he decided to flee the unit and defect to North Korea, fearing that he would be killed while on patrol. He also feared the possibility of being sent to the Vietnam War, according to BBC

Fox Reports that he was one of four Americans to defect to North Korea in the 1960s. He later regretted his decision, remarking that he was a fool.

"Thinking back now, I was a fool," said Jenkins in an interview in 2005. "If there's a God in heaven, he carried me through it." 

Although he fled the possibility of death, he didn't escape to a land of wealth and freedom. Rather, he endured decades of hardship in the communist country and later remarked that the difficulty of war may have been the easier of the two routes. 

One of the bright parts of being within North Korea, says Jenkins, was meeting his wife, who was kidnapped in 1978 and brought to teach North Korean spies Japanese. 

His wife, Hitomi Soga, was one of 13 Japanese citizens that Tokyo reported as kidnapped and brought to North Korea during the 1970s and 1980s. Jenkins and his wife were forced by North Korean officials to marry, but they eventually fell in love. They then had two daughters together, Mika and Blinda. 

According to BBC, their love was at first rooted in their mutual hatred of the North Korean government, who was keeping them both captive in the country. In his memoir, Jenkins wrote that both of them went to bed every night and would say "goodnight" to each other in their native tounges so that they would never forget who they were or where they came from. Both of them, they wanted to remember, were trapped in North Korea by the regime. 

It wasn't until 2002 that Ms. Soga was finally freed after negotiations by the Japanese government. Pyongyang then permitted Jenkins to leave two years later, along with their two daughters.

Life wasn't easy for Jenkins after leaving North Korea. In fact, he continued to suffer from lingering medical complications that accompanied dubious procedures he received while living in North Korea. 

"In North Korea, I lived a dog's life. Ain't nobody lives good in North Korea. Nothing to eat. No running water. No electricity. In the wintertime you freeze - in my bedroom, the walls covered in ice," he said, according to the Independent

Jenkins lived the end of his life in fear of his captures. He was afraid that the North Korean regime would try to assassinate him. 

North Korea wants me dead," he once said, according to BBC. 

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