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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 November, 2004, 08:37 GMT
Jenkins deserted 'out of fear'
US soldier Charles Jenkins arriving at a military tribunal in Japan (picture released by US army)
Jenkins repeatedly broke down during the trial
A US soldier has been found guilty of deserting to North Korea in 1965 and given a 30-day prison sentence.

Charles Robert Jenkins, 64, who ended up living in the North for 39 years, was given a dishonourable discharge at his court martial in Japan.

He pleaded guilty to desertion, saying he wanted to avoid "hazardous" duty on the Korean peninsula and in Vietnam.

He also admitted aiding the enemy by teaching English in North Korea, but denied encouraging disloyalty.

"Ma'am, I am in fact guilty," Jenkins earlier told the judge, Colonel Denise Vowell, in sometimes tearful testimony at the court hearing in Camp Zama, the headquarters of the US army in Japan.

He confessed to deserting to North Korea one night in January 1965 as a 24-year-old sergeant on patrol in South Korea.

I should have asked for... a discharge, but I didn't. It was a mistake
Charles Robert Jenkins

He explained that he had feared being transferred to daytime patrols in the dangerous Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas, or in Vietnam, where the conflict was intensifying.

"I started to fear something for myself, but I started to fear even more that I might cause other soldiers to be killed. I started to drinking alcohol," he said, breaking down in tears. "I never drank so much before."

He told the court how one winter night he drank 10 beers and then tied a white tee-shirt round his rifle as a surrender flag, before heading to North Korea.

He said he had planned to ask the authorities to send him to the Soviet Union, where he would turn himself in to the US embassy in Moscow, and then return to the United States.

"I knew 100 percent what I was doing but I did not know the consequences," said Jenkins.

"I should have asked for... a discharge, but I didn't. It was a mistake."

Jenkins also admitted aiding the enemy by teaching English to North Korea soldiers at a military college near Pyongyang.

"You don't say no to North Korea. You say one thing bad about Kim Il-sung and you dig your own hole, because you're gone," he told the judge in his defence.

He said one time he had told the authorities he wanted to stop teaching English and "I got in trouble".

"They carried me home and tied me up and beat the hell out of me," he said.

"That time I didn't go back to the university for 20 days, my face was messed up so bad."


But Jenkins pleaded not guilty to encouraging disloyalty and soliciting other serving US army members to desert, and Judge Vowell dropped those charges against him.

The US soldier could have faced life in prison, but it had been widely expected that Jenkins would receive a lighter sentence in return for a guilty plea.

Jenkins was demoted to the lowest possible army rank and forced to forfeit all pay and allowances. He was to be taken to Yokosuka Naval Base just outside Tokyo for 30 days' confinement, unless the sentence is suspended, the Associated Press reported.

Jenkins gave himself up to the US in September, while in Japan for medical treatment.

He left North Korea in July, when the authorities there allowed him to visit Indonesia for a supposedly brief reunion with his family, but he went on to his wife's home country.

Jenkins' wife, Hitomi Soga, was one of five Japanese abducted by North Korea and freed in 2002. The couple met and married in North Korea and have two children.

Ms Soga pleaded for leniency during her husband's hearing, saying that Jenkins provided for their family in North Korea despite the harsh conditions.

"My only hope now is to make our small bit of happiness as a family bigger. I hope you take that into consideration," she told the judge.

Jenkins told the court how marriage had brought him happiness during his traumatic stay in North Korea.

"Our mutual fate brought us together in North Korea and our love for one another kept us together for 24 years," he said.

US soldier jailed 39 years after desertion

Washington PostU.S. Deserter Took Plea Bargain: Leniency for Soldier Who Fled to N. Korea Appeases Japan - 10 hrs ago
TelegraphKorea deserter jailed - 11 hrs ago
Independent Sergeant jailed for hiding behind Bamboo Curtain - 12 hrs ago
IHT Deserter to North Korea pleads guilty - 14 hrs ago
Guardian Unlimited Token sentence for US sergeant who defected to N Korea - 14 hrs ago
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