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New York Tiems reported on Aug.22, 2017 that One of a handful of American soldiers who defected to North Korea during the Cold War died last year after living there for more than half a century, two of his sons said in a video on Minjok-Tongshin Korean website based on Los Angeles.
New York Times: ASIA PACIFIC
U.S. Soldier Who Defected to North Korea in 1962 Has Died, His Sons Say
James Joseph Dresnok, an Army defector, in North Korea in 2005. He once said that he would not leave the country “if you put a billion damn dollars of gold on the table.”CreditKoryo Tours/VeryMuchSo Productions, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
SEOUL, South Korea — One of a handful of American soldiers who defected to North Korea during the Cold War died last year after living there for more than half a century, two of his sons said in a video on a pro-North Korea website.
The soldier, James Joseph Dresnok, died in November at 74, according to his sons, Ted Dresnok and James Dresnok Jr. The sons, who were born in the North and are now in their 30s, were interviewed there on Aug. 15 by Roh Kil-nam, a journalist based in the United States, according to Mr. Roh, who uploaded the video to his website on Friday.
Mr. Dresnok was an American soldier based in South Korea, facing marital troubles and a potential court-martial for forging a pass, when he defected to North Korea in 1962, crossing the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone between the two Koreas. He is believed to have been the last American deserter still alive in the North.
“I was fed up with my childhood, my marriage, my military life, everything,” Mr. Dresnok told the makers of “Crossing the Line,” a 2006 documentary. “I was finished. There’s only one place to go. I crossed over, looking for my new life.”
The few Americans who defected to North Korea were soon deployed for their propaganda value, and Army Private First Class Dresnok, from Richmond, Va., was no exception. He was put on magazine covers, and he glorified North Korean life in messages that were broadcast to American troops across the border.Continue reading the main story
Later he starred as an American villain in propaganda films made for a domestic audience and became something of a celebrity. He told the makers of “Crossing the Line” that he would not leave the North “if you put a billion damn dollars of gold on the table.”
“To his last day, our father had lived a life blessed by the love and benefits from the party,” Ted Dresnok said in the interview uploaded to Minjok Tongshin, Mr. Roh’s website.
[민족통신]미국계 조선인민군 군관들과의 특별대담 Video by 민족TV minjok tv
During the interview, which was conducted in Korean, both sons wore military officers’ uniforms and lavished praise on their country’s totalitarian government. They said their father had died of a stroke, even though the North’s “beloved supreme leader Marshal Kim Jong-un” had ensured that he received the best treatment in a Pyongyang hospital.
“My father finished his life with no regrets,” said James Dresnok Jr. “If he had any regret, it was that he died early, missing more loving care from the party and the fatherland.”
Mr. Roh, a South Korean-born American citizen whose website is highly sympathetic to Pyongyang, wrote that the Dresnoks “sounded more North Korean than North Koreans.” He added, “Except that they were white men, there was no difference at all between them and other North Korean soldiers.”
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According to a 2014 United Nations report on human rights in the North, the Dresnoks’ mother was Doina Bumbea, a Romanian woman who is believed to have been lured to North Korea in 1978. After Ms. Bumbea died of cancer in 1997, Mr. Dresnok is said to have married another woman and had a third son.
The United Nations report said that “women abducted from Europe, the Middle East and Asia were subjected to forced marriages with men from other countries to prevent liaisons on their part with ethnic Korean women that could result in interracial children.”
In 2004, Charles Robert Jenkins, an Army sergeant who defected to North Korea in 1965, was allowed to leave the country with his two daughters and join his wife, a Japanese abductee who had been permitted to leave in 2002. Mr. Jenkins, then 64, was court-martialed by the Army for desertion, demoted to private and given a dishonorable discharge and a 30-day jail sentence. He and his family now live on a small Japanese island.
In interviews and a book, Mr. Jenkins remembered Mr. Dresnok as a bully who often beat him. Mr. Dresnok strongly denied that in “Crossing the Line.”
Ted Dresnok said in the interview that he had a son and a daughter, and James Dresnok Jr. said he had a daughter. Like their father, the two brothers have appeared in North Korean films.
Mr. Roh, who has interviewed the brothers before, has made numerous trips to North Korea, and his full-throated advocacy for its government has earned him the enmity of conservative politicians in South Korea. Presumably, he will be unable to enter the country after Sept. 1, when the Trump administration’s ban on Americans traveling there is scheduled to take effect.
In the interview, the Dresnok brothers alluded to the recent rise in tensions between North Korea and the United States, marked by President Trump’s threat to bring “fire and fury” to the North and Pyongyang’s warning that it might fire missiles into the waters around Guam.
“I advise the Americans to think twice,” James Dresnok Jr. said.
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