For nearly 40 years, the North Carolina native lived as a prisoner in Pyongyang until he was liberated thanks to Hitomi Soga, a woman North Korea abducted from Japan who became his wife.
Charles Robert Jenkins, from the tiny town of Rich Square in North Carolina, was eventually allowed to leave the secretive state in 2004. Here are a few things to know about the U.S. soldiers who had an extraordinary life.
Helped by his wife Hitomi Soga (R), former US soldier Charles Robert Jenkins (front L) arrives at Tokyo global airport at Haneda, 18 July, 2004, with their North Korea-born daughters Mika (back L) and Brinda (2nd R). On Monday, he collapsed outside his house on Sado island, northern Japan, local media reported. His wife said in a statement that she was "very surprised" by his death and "cannot think of anything", according to AFP news agency.
He faced some hard time in North Korea as a prisoner, as he had to live the way the government directed him.
Jenkins disappeared in January 1965 while patrolling the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates North and South Korea - while drunk off of 10 beers - to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.
Charles Jenkins, US army deserter to North Korea. He was only 24 years old.
Jenkins had planned to go Russian Federation, but the country did not grant him or any other Americans asylum.
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In his memoir, The Reluctant Communist: My desertion, court-martial and 40-year imprisonment in North Korea he revealed that every night before they went to bed, he would say "oyasumi" (Japanese for goodnight) to his wife and she would respond in English.
"I can not think now and would like to comment when I regain my calm". "If there's a God in the heaven, he carried me through it", Jenkins told USA broadcaster CBS in an interview in 2005. But they also became minor celebrities when they acted in North Korean propaganda films, starring as Western villains. But he said he had no plans to move back to the US.
Jenkins had been living on Sado Island, off Japan's west coast, with his wife Hitomi Soga, a Japanese citizen who was abducted by North Korea in 1978, since they were freed in 2002. Soga was abducted from Japan to train North Korean spies her language. Within two weeks they were forced to marry, according to Mr Jenkins, but they eventually fell in love, bonded by their mutual hatred of their captors. "North Korea wants me dead", he told the L.A. Times.
Jenkins was 40 when Soga, then 21, was brought to him to live together.
He wrote: "We did this so we would never forget who we really were and where we came from". Their 34-year-old daughter Mika lives at home and teaches at a nearby kindergarten, while 32-year-old Brinda lives on the closest mainland city, Niigata.
"In North Korea, I lived a dog's life".
In November 2004, a US court-martial found Jenkins guilty of desertion and sentenced him to 30 days in prison. He then returned to Japan to be with his wife, eventually finding work at a tourist attraction in Sado.
Even while living in freedom, Mr Jenkins still remained afraid of his former captors, and was constantly anxious that he or his family would eventually be assassinated. He was accused of absconding and fleeing to North Korea.
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