July 19, 2004

The Curious Case of Charles Robert Jenkins...

This morning’s Los Angeles Times features a fascinating article on Sgt. Charles Jenkins. In 1965, while patrolling the DMZ between North and South Korea, Sgt. Jenkins claimed to hear a noise, which he went off to investigate. A couple days later he was heard over a North Korean loudspeaker, claiming he found the “workers paradise”. He’s been appearing in high-quality North Korean propaganda ever since. There hasn’t ever been any question: Sgt. Jenkins defected of his own accord. He’s been living in Pyongyang ever since. He married in 1980, to Hitomi Soga a Japanese woman who was kidnapped, along with her mother, as a teenager, and sent to the workers paradise to teach NoKo spies to speak Japanese. Her mother was never seen or heard of again. She met Jenkins when he was assigned to teach her English. They married, and now have two grown daughters. In 2002, she and her daughters were allowed to visit her family in Japan. They did so, and never left. It was then where she found out about her mother, 24 years after the fact.

In the two years since then, Soga has become a bit of a national hero in Japan, mostly due to her struggles to keep her fractured family together. This has spread to the rest of her family, including Sgt. Jenkins, who is now seriously ill with an unknown stomach condition. This national feeling has forced the Japanese government to welcome Jenkins to its soil, to receive medical treatment from Japanese doctors. Now, the US, from the Bush administration on down, has made it crystal-clear they wish to prosecute Jenkins, for, ya know, being a traitor and all, but they’re worried about adversely affecting US sentiment in Japan. The Japanese, like most countries other than us, are not at all pleased about the war in Iraq. Still, they are our most trusted, and considering how crazy the South Koreans can be, perhaps ONLY ally in Asia. So, the sickly traitor flew from Pyongyang to Jakarta and then on to Tokyo. The Americans have made it clear they won’t be requesting extradition of Jenkins until his health situation solidifies somewhat.

Where do I stand on all this? Well, if we existed in a vacuum, it would be easy: demand extradition, pull him off life support and line up against the wall. Unfortunately, that cannot happen, due to the Japanese inexplicably caring for him. I can understand the feeling for Soga; she was kidnapped and sent to North Korea against her will. Her mere survival is something to marvel at, but Jenkins deserves no such good feeling. He betrayed his uniform, his fellow soldiers and his country. The most prudent course of action would be to let nature dictate. If Jenkins dies, as is expected, that’s fine and dandy. If he lives, then we move to the extradition process. Considering the Bush Administration’s predilection for ignoring the feelings of allies (sometimes very justifiably), look to see the extradition order tomorrow.

Posted by Frinklin at July 19, 2004 06:12 PM
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