Deserter Recalls N. Korean Hell

Charles Jenkins Shares His Story Of A Hard Life Under Abusive Regime


Jenkins joined the North's collection of American Army deserters. At the time, there were three others already living in North Korea. He shared a house with Larry Abshier, Jerry Parrish and James Dresnok.

"Dresnok told me, 'You're here, you'll never leave,'" Jenkins said.

Then, as now, North Korea was a totalitarian state straight out of the pages of George Orwell. The dictatorship of Kim Il Sung imposed complete control of body and mind.

What did the four American soldiers do all day long in Pyongyang? Jenkins says they were forced to study the teachings of Kim Il Sung.

Korean political officers called "leaders" forced the Americans to study Kim's writings eight hours a day for seven years. They memorized it in Korean, a language they didn't understand. And even now, the words lie on his memory like a scar.

While reciting one of Kim Il Sung's teachings in Korean for Pelley, Jenkins had a pained look on his face. "In words, I cannot express the feelings I have towards North Korea, the harassment I got. The hard life," he said.

At one point, Jenkins was assigned a woman and ordered by the government to have sex with her twice a month.

"The leaders almost tell her when to do it. And I got in a big fight one time over it, because of one leader. I told him it's none of his business: 'If I want to sleep with her, she want to sleep, we sleep.' 'No, two times a month,'" Jenkins said, recalling the argument.

Jenkins says he got the worst beating ever for talking back to a leader. He showed Pelley a scar where he says his teeth came through his lower lip.

But even that beating wasn't as bad as the day someone noticed Jenkins' tattoo with the words "U.S. Army" inked into his forearm below crossed rifles.

Jenkins says the North Koreans held him down and cut off the tattoo with scissors and no anesthetic. "They told me the anesthetic was for the battlefield," Jenkins said. "It was hell."

He wanted to believe he was still in the Army but now the North Koreans had cut the words right out of his flesh.