American Deserter Married Abducted Japanese Woman in N. Korea

An American serviceman who defected to North Korea later married a Japanese woman who had been abducted by North Korean agents, and both are now living in the North's capital, Pyongyang, a senior Japanese official said Wednesday.

The serviceman, Charles Robert Jenkins, of North Hampton, N.C., was one of four Americans who deserted their Army posts in South Korea in the 1960s. The Pentagon first confirmed that the four were alive and living in North Korea in 1996.

But the revelation Wednesday was the first time Jenkins had been connected to another twist from the Cold War: the case of Japanese citizens who were kidnapped by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s and forced to help train spies for the reclusive communist nation.

Japanese officials returned Tuesday from a mission in North Korea to get information on 13 Japanese citizens whom North Korea admitted last month to kidnapping.

During the mission, North Korea told the investigators that Jenkins, 62, who entered North Korea in January 1965, married Hitomi Soga, 43, in August 1980, Japanese Cabinet spokesman Shinzo Abe told a Tokyo news conference on Wednesday.

They have two daughters -- ages 19 and 17 -- both students at the Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, Abe said.

Soga was abducted from Japan's secluded Sado island while shopping with her mother in August 1978. Pyongyang said Soga was kidnapped with the help of a Japanese operative it refused to identify.

In 1997, the Pentagon sought to contact Jenkins and the three other defectors to see if they knew anything about other Americans missing from Korean War who possibly ended up in the North. At that time, Pyongyang said the four were North Korean citizens and did not wish to talk with U.S. officials.

The Pentagon repeated the request in 2000. Although North Korea did not outright reject it, no contacts ever followed.

The office for the U.S. Forces in South Korea did not immediately have further information about Jenkins on Wednesday.

The three other Americans who defected from South Korea during the 1960s were Pvt. Larry A. Abshier of Urbana, Ill., who left his unit in May 1962 at age 19; Cpl. Jerry W. Parrish of Morganfield, Ky., who deserted in December 1963 at age 19; and Pvt. James Dresnok of Norfolk, Va., who left in August 1962 at age 21.

In 1997, Jenkins' sister Pat Harrell met with North Korean officials in New York, who assured her that her brother was in good health. She was told he has a North Korean wife and is now a citizen of that nation.

During a Sept. 17 meeting with Japan's prime minister, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il made the surprise admission that agents from his country had snatched Japanese citizens. Kim said the abducted Japanese were used to teach spies Japanese language and culture and to help spies use their identities to get into other countries.

Soga is one of five Japanese kidnapping victims who North Korea has said is still alive. Eight people, North Korea has said, have died -- all by accidents, sickness or suicide. Japan is trying to find out more about how they died and locate and confirm their remains.