Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea

Article excerpt

GENERAL NONFICTION The Reluctant Communist: My Desertion, Court-Martial, and Forty-Year Imprisonment in North Korea, by Charles Robert Jenkins, with Jim Frederick. California, March 2008. $24.95

If the combination is possible, this little book is at once banal and mesmerizing. It is the first-person story (told through the pen of a Time magazine writer) of an American soldier who, in a fit of true stupidity, decided to desert his US Army unit by walking across the DMZ into North Korea in 1964. Today, he does not know what the North Korean regime thought of him, and that lack of information can serve as a metaphor for the darkness in which he was shrouded for the four decades he spent there. Jenkins's very small-scale celebrity status, as one of a tiny number of foreigners in one of the world's most repressed countries, won him a few material perks that were worthwhile only in the sense that famine and concentration camps came to describe the world around him. …

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