NIIGATA (TR) – Charles Jenkins, the former U.S. Army soldier who lived in North Korea for four decades before moving to Japan, has died in Sado City. He was 77, reports Nippon News Network (Dec. 12).
According to the network, Jenkins died a hospital in Sado of a cause not disclosed.
In 1965, Jenkins deserted the U.S. military by entering North Korea from South Korea to avoid combat in Vietnam. He later married Hitomi Soga, a Japanese national who had been abducted by the Communist nation in 1978.
Soga remained in North Korea until returning to Japan with four other abductees in 2002. Jenkins followed in 2004. Later that year, he pleaded guilty to charges of desertion and aiding the enemy. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Soga is one of multiple Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea. In September, she spoke out about a waning interest in the issue.
“I feel the public is gradually losing interest in the abduction issue,” she said, according to Jiji Press. She also requested that the Japanese government “make a greater effort than ever to resolve the abduction issue as soon as possible.”
In 2009, Jenkins received permanent residency in Japan. Until his death, he was employed in the tourism industry in Sado.
Jenkins and Soga have two daughters, Brinda and Mika.