Drudge Retort: The Other Side of the News
Saturday, December 23, 2017

Charles Robert Jenkins deserted the U.S. Army on a freezing night in January 1965. He pounded 10 beers to quiet his nerves, and abandoned his patrol unit along the border dividing South and North Korea -- a 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide strip of mine-ridden no man's land. He unloaded his M-16 rifle to show the enemy he meant no harm; he raised his knees high to avoid triggering tripwires. Several hours later, he crossed into North Korea. He didn't leave for nearly 40 years. Now, Jenkins -- 77 but looking much older, with a deep-lined face and distant expression -- lives a quiet life on Sado, a small, pastoral island in the Sea of Japan. He speaks in the thick Southern accent of his North Carolina childhood, and the stories he tells, 13 years after the end of his North Korean adventure, recall decades of solitude, deprivation and torture.

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"In North Korea, I lived a dog's life," he said in a rare interview, as he drove his boxy Subaru through Sado Island's rice paddies and sleepy villages. "Ain't nobody live good in North Korea. Nothing to eat. No running water. No electricity. In the wintertime you freeze -- in my bedroom, the walls were covered in ice."

North Korea somehow feels as close as ever. The television news carries a constant drumbeat of stories: Pyongyang's increasingly advanced missile tests, and nuclear threats; the death of Otto Warmbier, a 22 year-old American college student, after 17 months in North Korean custody; the assassination of ruler Kim Jong Un's half brother in a Malaysian airport. They all carry echoes of the one incontrovertible lesson he learned as a guest of the North Korean government for 40 years. "I don't put nothing past North Korea," Jenkins says. "North Korea could to do anything. North Korea don't care."

Six American soldiers defected to North Korea after the Korean War. Most were unhappy in the Army; most had troubled pasts. In 1965, Jenkins was a U.S. Army sergeant posted to South Korea. But he was unhappy with his assignment and worried it could get worse. He feared his unit's nighttime patrols along the border were too provocative and would get them killed; he feared he'd be sent to die in Vietnam. He got depressed, began drinking heavily and made a decision that he'd regret for the rest of his life: to go AWOL

"I know I was not thinking clearly at the time, and a lot of my decisions don't make sense now, but at the time they had a logic to them that made my actions seem almost inevitable," Jenkins recalled in his memoir, "The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea."

For eight years, the North Korean government held him in a spartan room with three other American defectors -- Jerry Wayne Parrish, 19; Larry Abshier, 19; and James Dresnok, 21. Authorities forced them to memorize ideological tomes by Kim Il Sung, the country's founder-president, and beat them when they slipped up. Bit by bit, they learned to speak Korean. Their relationships began to fray -- Jenkins and Dresnok didn't get along at all -- and when their North Korean minders weren't beating them, they often got in fistfights themselves.

In 1972, the North Korean government declared them citizens, gave them separate homes, and for the next several years, forced them into odd jobs. Mainly, the four men served as actors playing evil Americans in propaganda productions; they taught English at a military academy.

Generally, their lives were better than those of ordinary North Koreans. In the 1990s, as famine gripped the country, the government gave Jenkins and his family rice, soap, clothing and cigarettes every month. "I got put on rations," Jenkins recalled. "A regular Korean got none." Across the country, millions of people starved to death.

In 2002, everything changed. Kim Jong Il -- Kim Il Sung's son and successor -- admitted that North Korea had abducted 13 Japanese citizens and announced that five, including Soga, Jenkins' wife, would be released. In Japan, Soga's story of her romance with the American soldier became a media sensation -- a twisted tale of star-crossed lovers -- and two years later, in a diplomatic high-wire act led by Japan's then-prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, North Korea let Jenkins and their daughters go.

In 2004, the U.S. Army court-martialed Jenkins for desertion, and he spent 25 days in a military prison.

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After returning to Japan, Jenkins worked as a greeter in Mano Park, a placid tourist attraction on the Japanese island, selling senbei, a type of rice cracker. Tourists saw him and would squeal with delight -- "Jenkins-san!" -- as he passively posed for photos.

Earlier this month, Jenkins passed away at the age of 77. (www.aol.com)

#1 | Posted by GOnoles92 at 2017-12-23 04:30 PM | Reply

Charles Robert Jenkins deserted the U.S. Army on a freezing night in January 1965.

He pounded 10 beers to quiet his nerves, and abandoned his patrol unit along the border dividing South and North Korea -- a 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide strip of mine-ridden no man's land...

Several hours later, he crossed into North Korea. He didn't leave for nearly 40 years.


I did two tours in the Republic of Korea.

Many times I drank 10 beers at a time ...

But instead of going AWOL and defecting to the North Korean communists, I always managed to stay on my bar-stool to good-naturedly banter with the mama-sans and bar girls.

#2 | Posted by PinchALoaf at 2017-12-23 05:17 PM | Reply | Funny: 1 | Newsworthy 1

What a dummkopt.

#3 | Posted by LauraMohr at 2017-12-23 07:18 PM | Reply

*sigh*

#4 | Posted by madscientist at 2017-12-23 10:56 PM | Reply

#2,

Really Pinch? LOL..What are you talking about?

I did three tours of Korea. "Mama san" is a Vietnamese/Thailand term you idiot.

They were not called bar women, they were called drinky girls (because they always would say "buy me drinky"?), and most were Filipino or Russian. While I was a platoon leader during my last tour, I had a soldier marry a Russian drinky girl within 2 months of being in country. The Russians were the ones trying to sell you a $10 vodka with orange juice. You rarely saw a Korean woman anywhere near the club. Most were owned by Americans, ex-pats with Korean wives. The young, unmarried Korean women were called "ah ga shi", married women were called, "Ajumma" or pronounced American style "A ji ma".

I know you arent that much older than me Pinch, when were you in Korea? I was there '94, '98, '02.

#5 | Posted by boaz at 2017-12-24 08:20 AM | Reply

The Honch is home to dozens of different bars, eateries and nightclubs. Most take either US dollars or Japanese yen. These establishments typically range from standard Japanese-style bars to American-oriented hang-outs, catering to American sailors. Additionally, there are several "buy-me drinkie" bars located in the area, typically staffed by filipina women. These bars offer the guest a "host" to sit with you and keep you company, as long as you continue to buy her drinks, generally about $20 each. There are also a number of "Japanese-only" bars in the area which typically cater to the local Japanese businessmen who wish to drink and socialize in a place free of rowdy sailors and marines.

answers.yahoo.com

#6 | Posted by boaz at 2017-12-24 08:25 AM | Reply

Obviously, the above article is about Japan, but the same thought still applies..

#7 | Posted by boaz at 2017-12-24 08:26 AM | Reply

This should serve as a cautionary tale for anti-establishment SJWs who believe communism is a great idea.

#8 | Posted by MUSTANG at 2017-12-24 08:28 AM | Reply

I did three tours of Korea. "Mama san" is a Vietnamese/Thailand term you idiot.

They were not called bar women, they were called drinky girls (because they always would say "buy me drinky"?), and most were Filipino or Russian. While I was a platoon leader during my last tour, I had a soldier marry a Russian drinky girl within 2 months of being in country. The Russians were the ones trying to sell you a $10 vodka with orange juice. You rarely saw a Korean woman anywhere near the club. Most were owned by Americans, ex-pats with Korean wives. The young, unmarried Korean women were called "ah ga shi", married women were called, "Ajumma" or pronounced American style "A ji ma".

I know you arent that much older than me Pinch, when were you in Korea? I was there '94, '98, '02.

#5 | POSTED BY BOAZ

Time and place -- if I wasn't surrounded by a bunch of civilians on this message board I would've said Ajumma instead of Mama-san, and Juicy-girls instead of bar girls.

I was in Korea in 1992/'93 and 2000 ... the best overseas tours of my 20 years. But all good things come to an end.

#9 | Posted by PinchALoaf at 2017-12-24 09:55 AM | Reply

#9 Agreed.

Korea was the best I had in my 20 years. Camp Gary Owens, Yong San, Camp Walker, Chege do(sp?) and Taegu. All kinds of awesomeness.

#10 | Posted by boaz at 2017-12-24 01:17 PM | Reply

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