American Soldier Who Defected to North Korea Dies at 77

A former US sergeant who defected to North Korea and became Pyongyang’s prisoner for nearly 40 years has died.

Charles Jenkins, 77, lived in Japan where he had settled with his family after his 2004 release.

He was among four US soldiers who defected in the 1960s and later became North Korean film stars, but was the only one who was released.

The others reportedly died in North Korea, including James Dresnok who was said to have died of a stroke in 2016.

Charles Jenkins died on Sado island on Monday, where he was living with his wife Hitomi Soga, also a former prisoner of North Korea. Japan’s Kyodo news agency said the cause of death was not yet known.

A plan that went wrong

Mr Jenkins had led an extraordinary but also difficult life in North Korea, which he would later chronicle in a memoir and several interviews.

In 1965, while stationed with the US army in South Korea by the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), Mr Jenkins decided to abandon his unit and defect to the North, fearing he would be killed in patrols or sent to fight in the Vietnam War.

He said he thought that once in North Korea, he could seek asylum with the Russian embassy, and eventually return to the US in a prisoner swap.

One January night, Mr Jenkins walked across the DMZ and surrendered to North Korean soldiers there. He was only 24 years old.

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SOURCE: BBC News