When I first heard the news about the deserter from the U.S. Army during the Korean War who lived in North Korea for forty years, I presumed that he was actually enamoured of that freaky cult-communist regime. So it seemed like he got off easily with only a 30 day imprisonment.
In fact, that soldier, Charles Jenkins, was just scared of being shot or sent to Vietnam. After he deserted, he was imprisoned with four other American soldiers — often beaten, starved, and indocrinated — in North Korea for decades, despite his desire to return to the US. Of the other three soldiers, two are dead and one remains in North Korea. (The remaining soldier was often the “enforcer” of punishment in the group, so he hardly deserves to be rescued.)
Amazingly enough, in 1980, when the soldiers were finally able to live in houses of their own, Charles Jenkins married Hitomi Soga, one of the Japanese women kidnapped by North Korea in 1978. Two years ago, Soga was permitted to return to Japan. Jenkins and their two daughters were allowed to follow her to Japan this July.
Charles Jenkins’ years of captivity in North Korea do not erase his cowardice in deserting, but they certainly consitute more than enough punishment.
I cannot but wish him and his family well.