Former Sgt. Hopes to Reunite With Family

by TChris

In 1965, unable to handle military service any longer, Charles Jenkins crossed the border into North Korea, leaving his life behind. He eventually married Hitomi Soga, one of a dozen Japanese citizens who had been kidnapped and used to train North Korean spies in the Japanese language and culture. Only five of the kidnapped Japanese are still alive. North Korea admitted their existence in 2002 and agreed to let them return to Japan.

But Jenkins, now 64, stayed behind, fearing that Japan would be forced to turn him over to the United States to face charges of desertion. His daughters (ages 18 and 20) stayed with him. The family would like to be reunited in Japan, and Japan's prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, wants to make that happen. When he raised the issue with President Bush, however, he got a predictable response: the former Sergeant must be dealt with according to military rules. If he goes to Japan to be with his wife, the U.S. wants him back.

Bush has contended with his own "deserter" label because of his ambiguous National Guard service, and he isn't likely to give Jenkins a break during an election year, particularly when his opponent is a war hero. As long as the President is unwilling to forgive and forget an event that occurred four decades ago, Jenkins' only hope of sharing the rest of his life with his wife and daughters may depend upon finding a country that doesn't have a treaty requiring extradition of miltary offenders and that will agree to host his family.

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