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Home > Media Reviews > News Review Last Updated: 14:53 03/09/2007
News Review #267: December 7, 2004

In From the Cold

Reviewed by Hitoshi URABE

In From the Cold


The caption of an article is always a self-praise, and this one introduced above is no exception. But in this case, it is also very true, "It's a tale of despair and regret, redemption and love." Although the article appeared, as above, in Time website in English, Japanese media all over, from TVs to newspapers and magazines, has cited various parts of the article by translating it into Japanese.

This is a story about Charles Robert Jenkins, a US Army deserter who fled from his post when patrolling the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in 1964 at the age of 24, to be held captive in North Korea for 40 years. In 1980, he married a Japanese girl Hitomi Soga who was kidnapped from near her home in Niigata in 1978 by North Korean government agents, and the couple was blessed with two daughters. But nothing happened as far as the rest of the world was concerned for decades while the family had to live in isolation.

In 2002, Japan's prime minister went to Pyongyang see the North Korean leader who admitted abducting a number of Japanese citizens, and later returned five of them, among which was Ms. Soga. Then, in 2004, after careful and shrewd diplomatic maneuver, the Jenkins family was able to reunite in Jakarta, and the whole family was brought back to Japan, in accordance with the will of the couple. In a couple of months, upon regaining his health, C.R.Jenkins turned himself in to a U.S. Army base in Japan as "the longest-missing deserter ever to return to the U.S. Army."

After being court-martialed, he served the penalty of 30-day confinement, which was ultimately reduced by 5 days. In addition, he faced demotion to the rank of private, forfeiture of all pay and benefits and a dishonorable discharge.

The article introduced above is well written as it is not lost to emotion, nor does it see C.R.Jenkins as a hero. In fact, there are a number of places to show that he is just an ordinary - and in some respects sub-ordinary - person. He is introduced as a "seventh-grade dropout" and his "military aptitude tests resulted far below average." He is described as to speak "in his barely intelligible rural Carolina drawl." But the writer does not denounce him as being a traitor or the sort, either. He is treated in the article simply as a man who inadvertently fell in the abyss of world politics. The article is formulated in a calm and objective manner.

Now C.R.Jenkins is free, and the family is going (back) to Ms.Soga's home in Niigata. It is not that their livelihood is "guaranteed" in the sense as it had been when they were in North Korea, but it is Ms.Soga's home and she has already begun working as a nurse. And for C.R.Jenkins, he has expressed his feelings by saying, "I made a big mistake of my life, but getting my daughters out of there, that was one right thing I did."

This is a story of a family, not of international politics. Despite of it - or because of it - this is a worthwhile reading - very recommended.

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