Jenkins thanks public, but asks media for some peace

by Reiji Yoshida

U.S. Army deserter Charles Jenkins, who is set to visit North Carolina for the first time in nearly four decades, expressed gratitude Friday for the support he has received from the Japanese public — but asked the media to respect his privacy during his trip.

“First of all, I’d like to express my heartful thanks to everyone in Sado Island and all of Japan for giving us so much warm support every day,” read a written message released by Jenkins, who now lives on Sado, off Niigata Prefecture, with his wife, repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga, and their two North Korea-born daughters, Mika and Brinda.

The family plans to depart Narita airport, Chiba Prefecture, on Tuesday. They will visit Jenkins’ relatives, including his elderly mother and sister, before returning to Narita on June 22. “It has been my strong wish for a long time to see my mother again,”Jenkins said.

Jenkins, a former U.S. Army sergeant, had lost contact with his family after deserting to North Korea in 1965. He met and married Soga, who was abducted to Pyongyang by North Korean agents in 1978.

“We would like to travel and visit my family in peace as this time is a very personal matter,” Jenkins said.

“Please understand this intention and please refrain from reporting or taking pictures during this period.”

Jenkins and his two daughters were brought to Japan last year after lengthy negotiations between Pyongyang and Tokyo over the status of the kin of abducted Japanese nationals, including Soga.