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Left Leaving for the Worker's Paradise?

DKW 86

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WTH were they thinking?

Jenkins, however, confessed that he deserted on Jan. 5, 1965, because he was afraid of being shot patrolling the Demilitarized Zone and of being sent to Vietnam. Jenkins, now a frail 64-year-old, said he had intended to somehow return to the United States.

He soon realized North Korea wasn't going to let him go.

"For many years we lived in a one-room house that we all shared," he said in the statement. "We slept on the floor, there was most often no electricity, and we had no running water. We were allowed to bathe once a month, though in the summer we bathed more often in the river."

Jenkins said their "job" was to study — in Korean — the philosophy of Kim Il Sung, which they did for 10 hours a day. He said he and the other Americans called it "the study of class struggle from the perspective of a crazy man."

"If we didn't memorize enough, or were not able to recite portions of our studies on demand, we were then forced to study 16 hours a day on Sunday, which was our only day of rest," he said.

"I longed to leave that place every day."

Jenkins said he and the others tried to escape by seeking asylum in the Soviet Embassy in 1966. Guards allowed them in, assuming they were Russian.

"Of course, when they found out who we were, they sent us out of the embassy, and none of us figured out why we weren't shot by the North Koreans later on," he said. "From then on, any time we did anything real stupid, we did it together, 'cause we figured they wouldn't want to kill all the Americans at one time."

Despite being under the constant watch of a minder, or "political leader," the four organized other little rebellions that could have cost them their lives.

"During the first 10 years or so, our political leader lived directly in our home," Jenkins said. "Once, when he was gone, we snuck up into the attic to see if we could scrounge some old electrical insulators. I was secretly building a fishing net to increase our food supply, and I needed the insulators as weights." In the attic, he said, "We found microphones everywhere, and realized that the leader was taping everything we said between us."

Parrish, he said, decided to bury the microphones in the backyard.

"Parrish told the leader he would give the microphones back if the leader would take him to Pyongyang to buy a bottle of wine," Jenkins said. "The leader could have had us all shot for this, but he was too worried that he would be in trouble himself for allowing us to climb into the attic. Parrish got the wine, though he did not share it."

By 1980, the three were allowed to live in houses of their own.

That year, Jenkins married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese who had been abducted by North Korean spies in 1978. Soga was allowed to return to Japan two years ago; Jenkins and their two North Korea-born daughters joined her in July.

Though Soga testified that Jenkins was a devoted father, she said their lives were hard.

"In the winter, we wore all the clothes we had just to stay warm," she said in testimony Wednesday. "There were times our daughters went to bed hungry."

Jenkins said he kept in contact with the other Americans.

"Dresnock and myself had been given a small two-room house each, and our homes were relatively close to each other," he said. "Parrish and Abshier were moved miles away, and their homes were in close proximity as well."

He said he and Dresnock were forbidden from communicating with Parrish and Abshier but eventually visited each other, "though we could have been punished severely."

"In the end, I think we quietly hoped we would get caught and it would be done with," he said.

Jenkins said the North Koreans used Dresnock as an enforcer.

"The North Korean army often used Dresnock to beat the other three of us when we did wrong, though there were plenty of North Korean soldiers who put us down as well," he said. "I cannot remember how many times I was physically beaten during those times for this and that. I try not to think about that anymore, and usually I don't."

He said he was close to Abshier.

"Of us all, he was the simplest, the most scared, and my closest friend. I looked over him like a big brother," Jenkins said. "A little piece of me died that day when he left us."

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I'd say shoot him. But it sounds like he got what he deserved already. Of course all of the guys who didn't desert and died doing their duty might think differently?

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