US Army deserter who spent decades in N.Korea dies at 77

Former US Army sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins, who deserted to North Korea decades ago, faces reporters at a town hall of his Japanese wife Hitomi Soga’s hometown Sado on the Japan Sea coast December 7, 2004. (Reuters)
Updated 12 December 2017
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US Army deserter who spent decades in N.Korea dies at 77

TOKYO: Charles Jenkins, a US Army deserter who spent four decades in communist North Korea and married a Japanese woman abducted by Pyongyang, has died at the age of 77, officials said on Tuesday.
According to the Asahi Shimbun daily, his daughter found him collapsed outside their house on Monday and called the emergency services.
He later died of heart problems at a hospital in the northern city of Sado, according to the local government.
He deserted during a drunken night in 1965, crossing the heavily fortified border into North Korea from the South.
He said later he was scared of being sent to Vietnam and thought North Korea would send him home.
Instead, he spent 39 years in Pyongyang, where he taught English to spy cadets in his North Carolina drawl and played a Yankee villain in propaganda films.
In 1980, he married Hitomi Soga, who was kidnapped by North Korean agents in the Cold-War era.
She was allowed to leave North Korea for Japan in 2002 and Jenkins followed her two years later with their two Korean-born daughters.
The Japanese government granted him permanent residency and he lived in Soga’s hometown on Sado, a picturesque island in the Sea of Japan.
Soga said in a statement released by the city government on Tuesday she was “very surprised” by his death and “cannot think of anything.”
Sado mayor Motohiro Miura expressed condolences in a statement, saying that Jenkins “worked at a souvenir shop and contributed to local tourism.”
After heading to Japan, Jenkins was court-martialled by the US military for deserting but given only a 30-day confinement.
North Korean agents kidnapped Soga and a number of other ordinary Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s in order to train its spies in the Japanese language and culture.
In 2002, North Korea admitted kidnapping 13 Japanese civilians but the government in Tokyo believes at least 17 were taken.
A month later, five including Soga were allowed to return to Japan. Pyongyang insists the other eight are dead but has not produced cast-iron evidence.
The issue sours already strained Japan-North Korea relations and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe often wears a blue ribbon to remind him of their abduction.
Last month, during a trip to Tokyo, US President Donald Trump met Soga and the now elderly families of those abducted.
There are strong suspicions in Japan that dozens of other citizens were also snatched by the North.
James Joseph Dresnok, the only US soldier known still to have been living in North Korea after defecting more than five decades ago, died in November 2016, his sons confirmed in August.


Golden Globe Race seek to rescue injured Indian sailor

The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy. (goldengloberace)
Updated 23 September 2018
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Golden Globe Race seek to rescue injured Indian sailor

  • The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy

PARIS: The organizers of the round-the-world Golden Globe Race said Saturday they were scrambling to rescue missing Indian sailor Abhilash Tomy, but admitted he was “as far from help as you can possibly be.”
Tomy’s yacht Thuriya had its mast broken off when it was rolled in a storm on Friday and the yachtsman suffered what he called “a severe back injury.”
The organizers described him as “incapacitated on his bunk inside his boat” and his yacht is 2,000 miles (3,704 kilometers) off the coast of Perth, Western Australia.
On Saturday, he managed to send a message saying: “Extremely difficult to walk, Might need stretcher, can’t walk, thanks safe inside the boat... Sat phone down.”
The organizers said on the race website: “The Australian Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center is working hard to assess and coordinate all possible options to rescue Abhilas Tomy who is as far from help as you can possibly be.”
Tomy, a 39-year-old commander in the Indian navy, is able to communicate using a YB3 texting unit but his primary satellite phone is damaged.
He has a second satellite phone and a handheld VHF radio packed in an emergency bag, but organizers said he was unable to reach it for the moment.
The organizers said they had urged him to try to get to the bag because it could be crucial in making contact with a plane from Australia and an Indian air force plane which might be able to fly over the area.
Given the distance from land, the planes will not be able to spend long in the area, the organizers added.
A French fishing boat was also heading to the scene “but may not arrive for a few days.”
The Golden Globe Race involves a gruelling 30,000-mile solo circumnavigation of the globe in yachts similar to those used in the first race 50 years ago, with no modern technology allowed except the communication equipment.
Tomy’s own yacht is a replica of Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhail, winner of the first Golden Globe Race.