NEW YORK – U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins (search), who was kept by the North Korean government for nearly four decades, said he feared the communist regime wanted his two daughters to become spies.
"They wanted us to have children," Jenkins told Time magazine in an issue on newsstands Monday, "so they could use them later."
Jenkins, who abandoned his Army post in South Korea (search) in 1965, testified that he fled because he thought he would be reassigned to Vietnam (search). He has said he did not intend to remain in North Korea but was forced to stay for 39 years.
During that time, he married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese woman who had been abducted by North Korean agents in 1978. The couple had two children, Mika, 21, and Brinda, 19.
Jenkins told Time that he became afraid that his daughters would be trained as spies after the government enrolled them in Pyongyang's Foreign Language College.
"I knew what they were trying to do," he told the magazine. "They wanted to turn them into spies. My daughters, they could pass as South Korean. There are lots of children of American G.I.s and South Korean mothers in South Korea. No one would doubt them for a second."
Jenkins' wife was allowed to return to Japan after North Korean leader Kim Jong Il admitted at a summit in 2002 that his country had kidnapped her and several other Japanese. In July, Jenkins and his two daughters went to join Soga in Jakarta, Indonesia.
They were then flown back to Japan, where Jenkins received emergency medical care. After he was discharged from a Tokyo hospital, Jenkins immediately turned himself in to American authorities at Camp Zama, the U.S. Army's Japan headquarters.
Jenkins told Time that his North Korean contacts and James Joseph Dresnok, another deserter living in North Korea, urged him not to surrender.
"They told me, 'If you go, you are going to jail for life,' but I didn't care," Jenkins told Time. "I thought, if I go to jail, I go to jail. As long as I get my daughters out."
Jenkins was sentenced to a month in prison in a plea bargain and released five days early for good behavior.
Jenkins, 64, will take his first steps toward a normal life with his family when he leaves an Army base near Tokyo on Tuesday to move to his wife's hometown in northern Japan.