Tuesday, December 07, 2004


After reading about the Time magazine interview of Charles Jenkins, the American soldier who defected to North Korea 40 years ago only to emerge out of the cold thanks to a fateful marriage to a Japanese woman who was abducted by the Northern Koreans, I thought of how real-life stories are often more fantastical than the ones invented by dramatists.

Should we be simultaneously amused and amazed by the fact that this soldier, who had only a seventh-grade education, was considered to have "low intelligence" by the U. S. military (insert your own oxymoron joke here)? Or should we chuck psychology and patriotism out the window and put the entire episode in a humanitarian context?

Mr. Jenkins talked about 16-hour-a-day indoctrination lessons, about living in houses that had no electricity and running water, about teaching North Koreans English and, oddly, getting fired for having a southern accent, about his suspicion that North Koreans intended for him to "breed" biracial children who could be turned into spies.

Truth will set you free, but fate determines everything else.

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