The Reluctant Communist
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The Reluctant Communist : My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea

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Description

In January of 1965, twenty-four-year-old U.S. Army sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins abandoned his post in South Korea, walked across the DMZ, and surrendered to communist North Korean soldiers standing sentry along the world's most heavily militarized border. He believed his action would get him back to the States and a short jail sentence. Instead he found himself in another sort of prison, where for forty years he suffered under one of the most brutal and repressive regimes the world has known. This fast-paced, harrowing tale, told plainly and simply by Jenkins (with journalist Jim Frederick), takes the reader behind the North Korean curtain and reveals the inner workings of its isolated society while offering a powerful testament to the human spirit.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 232 pages
  • 144.78 x 208.28 x 22.86mm | 839.14g
  • University of California Press
  • Berkerley, United States
  • English
  • 14 b/w photographs
  • 0520253337
  • 9780520253339
  • 989,042

About Charles Robert Jenkins

Charles Robert Jenkins is a former United States Army soldier who lived in North Korea from 1965 to 2004. He now lives in Japan. Jim Frederick was Time magazine's Tokyo bureau chief from 2002 to 2006 and is now a Time senior editor stationed in London.show more

Flap copy

"This story by Robert Jenkins of his four decades in North Korea represents a rare opportunity to view life in one of the most reclusive societies in the world, offering unprecedented insights for both specialists and the general reader."Robert Scalapino, University of California, Berkeley "This is an incredible story of betrayal, love and the search for redemption. Robert Jenkins is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe, isolated from the outside world, and relying on his wits to survive in a nightmarish parody of a nation where nothing is as it seems. Living in constant fear and violence, Jenkins's efforts to grow food, dig a well, heat his home, generate electricity and to find companionship, trust and ultimately love, lend this rough and ready narrative an unexpected depth. Set within the bizarre and Orwellian surroundings of North Korea during the late 20th century, Jenkins's account is like no other I've ever read."Jasper Becker, author of Rogue Regime: The Continuing Threat of North Korea "Charles Jenkins' memoir is a genuinely unique account of the only American ever to live in North Korea for most of his life and return to write about it. Part biography, part eyewitness testimony, part apology, this book takes Mr. Jenkins from a childhood in the segregated South to a U.S. Army ruling the roost in South Korea in the 1950s, to a North Korea that saw him as a real-life Martian, but a valuable one for use in Cold War propaganda."Bruce Cummings, Chairman of the History Department at the University of Chicago"show more

Review quote

"Charles Jenkins' memoir is a genuinely unique account of the only American ever to live in North Korea for most of his life and return to write about it. Part biography, part eyewitness testimony, part apology, this book takes Mr. Jenkins from a childhood in the segregated South to a U.S. Army ruling the roost in South Korea in the 1950s, to a North Korea that saw him as a real-life Martian, but a valuable one for use in Cold War propaganda." - Bruce Cummings, Chairman of the History Department at the University of Chicago "Robert Jenkins is a modern-day Robinson Crusoe, isolated from the outside world, and relying on his wits to survive in a nightmarish parody of a nation where nothing is as it seems. Living in constant fear and violence, set within the bizarre and Orwellian surroundings of North Korea during the late 20th century, Jenkins's account is like no other I've ever read." - Jasper Becker, author of Rogue Regime: The Continuing Threat of North Korea"show more

Review Text

A riveting account of what happened to a U.S. sergeant after he walked across the DMZ and defected to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 1965.With the assistance of Frederick, Time magazine's former Tokyo bureau chief, Jenkins describes himself on the day he abandoned the men under his command as a young, scared, slightly drunk 24-year-old who basically wanted to go AWOL and get out of the army. He sobered up during a 40-year Sartrean odyssey in the most Orwellian of nations. Jenkins provides a rare look inside a country where up is down and down is up, where citizens are regularly forced to proclaim their loyalty to the "Dear Leader," where food, heat and logic are hard to come by. He managed to make a go of it, gamely keeping the "Organization" (his word for the Communist Party) at bay and scrounging together a living in a dirt-poor nation. In 1980 he met and quickly married Hitomi Soga, a young Japanese woman kidnapped by the North Korean security services as part of a program to indoctrinate future spies. In 2002, when North Korea was attempting rapprochement with Japan, Hitomi was allowed to visit her homeland; she stayed and ultimately arranged for Jenkins and their two daughters to join her in 2004. He surrendered to U.S. military authorities and received a 30-day sentence and dishonorable discharge for desertion and aiding the enemy. This slender book is short on historical context, although Frederick's long introduction does a decent job of setting up the story and giving some frame to Jenkins's life. The journalist's description of Jenkins's traumatized mental state during their first interview on a U.S. base in Tokyo in 2004 (mere hours after he got out of the brig) casts some doubt over this tale, but it's still well worth reading.Short on history and ideas, but worth it for the rare view inside the North Korean moonscape. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Table of contents

Foreword Acknowledgments Prelude 1. Super Jenkins 2. In the Army, and across the DMZ 3. Housemates 4. Cooks, Cadets, and Wives 5. Soga-san 6. Friends and Strangers 7. Domestic Life 8. Hitomi's Escape 9. My Escape 10. Homecomingsshow more

Rating details

701 ratings
3.83 out of 5 stars
5 25% (178)
4 39% (275)
3 30% (211)
2 4% (30)
1 1% (7)
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