“U.S. Army Deserter Describes 40 Years in North Korea Hell,” Drudge Report, 20 October 2005.
In his first U.S. television interview, the former U.S. Army sergeant who deserted to North Korea speaks for the first time about the abuse and control inflicted on him by the communist dictatorship over his nearly 40 years there. Charles Robert Jenkins tells Scott Pelley he had a “U.S. Army” tattoo sliced off without anesthetic and was even told how often to have sex by his communist “leaders” in a 60 MINUTES interview to be broadcast Sunday, Oct. 23 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.
In 1965, Jenkins was posted along the hostile border between North and South Korea. He says he was being asked to lead increasingly aggressive patrols and was wary that he might be sent to Vietnam. And so, on a sub-zero night, he says he drank 10 beers, abandoned his squad, and walked through a mine-field to surrender to the North. He says he thought he would be sent to Russia and exchanged in some Cold War swap. But he was wrong. “It was the worst mistake anyone ever made,” he tells Pelley. “In words I cannot express the feelings I have towards North Korea, the harassment I got. The hard life.”
That life included forced studying of the writings of the communist dictator Kim Il Sung. He says he and three other American deserters were forced to study eight hours a day for seven years. The studying was imposed by communist government handlers called “leaders.” They also assigned him a Korean woman, with whom he was supposed to have sex twice a month. “The leaders almost tell her when to do it, and I got in a big fight one time over it,” recalls Jenkins. “I told [the leader], ‘It’s none of his business if I want sleep with her. She wants to sleep — we sleep.’ ‘No — two times a month'” He says he was severely punished for talking back. “That’s the worst beating I ever got — over that,” he tells Pelley, showing a scar where he says his teeth came through his lower lip.
Worse still, says Jenkins, was the pain he endured when someone saw his U.S. Army tattoo. He says the North Koreans held him down and cut the words, “U.S. Army,” off with a scalpel and scissors — without giving him any painkiller. “They told me the anesthetic was for the battlefield,” says Jenkins, “It was hell.”
During his first 15 years in North Korea, Jenkins says he led a lonely and desperate life. Then his North Korean “leaders” brought a young Japanese woman to his door. She had been kidnapped from her homeland by North Korean agents. The only thing they had in common at first was that they hated North Korea, Jenkins says, but the relationship blossomed. They raised two children. Kim Jong Il’s decision in 2002 to allow Jenkins’ wife and other surviving abductees to return to Japan paved the way for Jenkins’ release last year.
Each night before going to bed in North Korea, Jenkins said good night to his wife in Japanese, rather than Korean. He did it, he tells Pelley, to “remind her that she’s still Japanese, that she’s not Korean. She’s not obligated to Korea. She is Japanese… and she spoke to me in English — every night. Regardless of how hard things got, we always stuck as one.”
When Jenkins finally stepped outside the North Korean culture after 40 years, he was most surprised to see women in the Army, limits on where you could smoke and black policemen. He had never heard of 60 MINUTES and thought Life magazine would be the place where he would tell his story. He knew something about the 1969 moon landing, however. “I was told that by the Koreans, one of the officers. They wouldn’t say what country, but they said, ‘Una handa la’… some country landed on the moon.”