North Korean agents mistakenly abducted the Japanese wife of U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins decades ago, believing she was a teacher, Jenkins said in an interview broadcast on Friday.
Jenkins’ wife, Hitomi Soga, disappeared in April 1978 from a small island off northern Japan after leaving her home with her mother to go shopping. Two years ago, North Korea leader Kim Jong Il admitted she was one of 13 Japanese who were kidnapped to teach the communist country’s spies the Japanese language and culture.
“My wife, when she was kidnapped, they kidnapped the wrong person,” Jenkins said in a taped interview aired by Fuji TV on Friday.
Jenkins, who deserted his U.S. Army unit along the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas in January 1965, met and married Soga in 1980. The couple have two North Korea-born daughters.
School teachers sought to train spies
Jenkins said the North had been seeking school teachers to train North Korean children as spies.
“The North Korean government did not have any use for my wife because she was not a school teacher. She was a nurse,” Jenkins said.
Not having any position for Soga, the government decided to place her with Jenkins so it could monitor them together, Jenkins said.
Jenkins’ family lived together in the communist country until Soga was returned to Japan in October 2002, when she and four other abduction victims were released following a summit between Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Kim.
The Japanese government was able to arrange for Jenkins and the two daughters to come to Japan earlier this year, saying the former U.S. army sergeant needed medical attention from Japanese doctors.
Interview taped in hospital
The interview was taped while Jenkins was being treated at a Tokyo hospital, Fuji TV said. It was not clear how the network obtained the tape.
Jenkins was discharged Sept. 11 and immediately turned himself in to U.S. military authorities at an army base near Tokyo to face desertion and other charges.
He was convicted in a Nov. 3 court-martial of desertion and aiding the enemy. He currently is serving a 30-day sentence in jail at Yokosuka Naval Base, just south of Tokyo.