Charles Robert Jenkins, a deserter or an abductee?

Saturday, September 25 2004 @ 10:37 AM JST

Contributed by: Y.Yamamoto

A reader's letter captioned "Jenkins being 'kidnapped' by Koizumi administration" appeared in the July 24, 2004 issue of the Daily Yomiuri.

This letter would not have been printed if the writer hadn't been a westerner or he had addressed it to the Yomiuri Shimbun, the DY's parent newspaper, because he was telling the whole truth that the Japanese media, and the government alike, have been trying to sweep under the carpet since the onset of the "abduction issue". If a savvy foreigner flips over the carpet and finds the truth underneath, that is it. It can't be helped (shoga-nai) because he doesn't belong in this "homogeneous" culture and thus can be neutralized or insulated very easily.

The writer by the name of Grant Piper concluded his letter like this: "Watching the reunion of the Soga-Jenkins family in Jakarta, and then their departure for Tokyo, supported by the half-baked tale of a medical emergency, I could smell the fakery of it all coming off my TV screen. Most of what we have seen so far in the whole sad tale of the former abductees has been staged, and I get the feeling that Jenkins will be forced to settle permanently in Japan whether he wants to or not."

In the U.S. some people close to Charles Robert Jenkins as well as some printed media have questioned if Charles Robert Jenkins was really an army deserter. Take the July 6 issue of the Los Angeles Times for example.
It hinted at the likelihood that Jenkins was an abductee, or a POW. On this side of the Pacific, a handful of Japanese with a certain amount of common sense have questioned whether all or most of the 5 (already repatriated) plus 10 plus some 150 Japanese allegedly abducted by North Korean agents from the late-1970s through early-1980s can be recognized so one-sidedly as victims of the state crime.

My tentative answer
to both questions is: Life can never be straightforward and unambiguous. It cannot be genuinely true that these Japanese people, of varying ages and occupations, ended up in bags and loaded onto boats destined for North Korea, for no particular reason. Neither is it really convincing that North Korean agents picked these people at random without sizing them up, in advance, against a certain set of selection criteria and "job" specifications. This is where I cannot but find the former victims' accounts of their ordeals more or less fishy. But let me discuss this aspect of the issue more in detail in another article in the Abduction Forum.

As things about the "abduction issue" have unfolded since the "historic" Pyongyang summits in September 2002 and May 2004, downright lies by Kim Jong-il, his Japanese counterpart and the media have started to surface.

On May 22 this year, Koizumi succeeded in bringing "back" the five children of the already repatriated families in exchange for 250,000 tons of food aid and medical supplies worth USD 10 million coupled with a guarantee that economic sanctions would not be invoked despite the legislation enabling them. The media and the entire nation hailed the Koizumi's feat and offered a heartfelt welcome "back" to these kids who were born, brought up and leading a relatively decent life in North Korea. Wasting no time their parents along with the media started counter-brainwashing the poor kids who had just been counter-abducted, so to speak. Having stuck around the "repatriated" kids almost around the clock for weeks, the media could finally report, a little triumphantly, that they had taken off the pin that all North Koreans are supposed to wear to show their loyalty to the Dear Great General.

On the other hand, the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN) represented by Shigeru Yokota and his wife Sakie was effectively silenced seemingly because they hadn't appreciated the Koizumi's feat. But I suspect the real reason the voices of the Yokotas and their colleagues have become increasingly inaudible ever since is the fact that the alleged abduction on November 15, 1977 of Megumi Yokota, Yokotas' daughter, is one of the relatively few well-substantiated cases of the North Korean state crime,

Then in July, things started to go totally out of order when the Soga-Jenkins family took center stage. Hitomi Soga is one of the 2002 class of returnees but in May 2004, she was left out because her American husband is a suspected army deserter. Now Kim Jong-il had decided to let Charles Jenkins go, or to be more precise, make him go, simply because he'd been used up by then as a bargaining chip for Kim Jong-il. And Koizumi's government and the local media shamelessly rolled out the red carpet all the way from the Pyongyang Airport to the pricey suite at a Jakarta hotel where the weepy family reunion was staged at Japan's taxpayers' expense (USD 2,000 per night), and further to a prestigious hospital attached to the Tokyo Women's Medical University which the entire family used as another luxurious hotel. Needless to say, the uninsured expenses for the "hospitalization" of the entire family were also footed by the taxpayers, as if the whole Soga-Jenkins family affair had something to do with the abduction issue.

It is when this stupidity was taking place that Koizumi coughed up his real intention. For the first time he admitted that he has wanted all along to normalize, at any cost, diplomatic ties between Japan and North Korea during his tenure as the PM. Maybe he knew it was not the right thing to do to let the people know his plans to lend a helping hand to his North Korean friend for the prolongation of his regime, until he could make sure he was on a roll along that line.

Most probably Charles Jenkins was neither a deserter, nor an abductee, as was true with a good part of the Japanese "abductees". His case fell somewhere in between. Perhaps he was both. When roaming about the DMZ on the 38th parallel on a night of 1965, he was thinking about deserting from his army unit. But we are reasonably sure that before he made up his mind, he was taken away by force across the border. In fact, however, that doesn't really matter at all now.

What is relevant to the current issue is the fact that Charles Jenkins has now been counter-abducted by the Japanese government as Grant Piper, the writer of the letter to the DY, suspects. It's a shame to see the Japanese government, the news media equipped with a solid self-censorship mechanism, and their traditionally credulous readership all falling into the hands of Kim Jong-il so easily.

Under the circumstances it is all the more encouraging to see the Yokotas and their colleagues carrying on their crusade, with an admirable perseverance, to bring back their kidnapped family members while having to keep a low profile all the time.

On September 25 yet another "working-level" talks between the two nations took place in Beijing primarily over the fate of the ten suspected abductees, including Megumi Yokota. As had been predicted, nothing new came out from this farce.

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