Jenkins' status of residency now permanent

Kyodo News

The government will grant permanent residency status to U.S. citizen Charles Jenkins, the husband of repatriated Japanese abductee Hitomi Soga, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama said Friday.

Jenkins, a former U.S. Army sergeant who deserted to North Korea, married Soga there and lived in the country almost 40 years. He came to Japan with the couple’s two North Korea-born daughters in July 2004 after being reunited with Soga in Jakarta.

The Justice Ministry made the decision unusually swiftly following Jenkins’ application for the status June 24. Foreign nationals usually must wait about six months to obtain permanent residency status.

Hatoyama told a regular news conference that his ministry’s screening work went smoothly because no problems were found in the documents Jenkins submitted.

Jenkins, 68, has been living in his wife’s hometown on Sado Island in the Sea of Japan since completing a 30-day detention for desertion at a U.S. base in Japan.

He acquired temporary residency status as Soga’s spouse and is required to renew it every three years. With permanent residency status, Jenkins will not be required to go through further renewals.

Soga, 49, and four other abductees were sent back to Japan in October 2002, a month after then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visited Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.