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DMZ Defectors to North Korea



  • Abshier, Larry Allen - 1962
  • Chong, Roy - 1979
  • Dresnock, Pfc. James Joseph - 1962
  • Jenkins, Sgt. Charles Robert - 1965
  • Parrish, Cpl. Jerry Wayne - 1963
  • White, Pfc. Joseph T. - 1982


Defected 1962

Abshier, Pvt. Larry Allen - Nicknamed "Lennie" in North Korea, he defected in May of 1962, becoming the first DMZ veteran to defect.  He was serving with the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division when he crossed into North Korea.  Born in Urbana, Illinois in 1943, he died of a heart attack in Pyongyang on July 11, 1983.  He was married, but the couple had no children.

Dresnock, Pfc. James Joseph - Son of Joseph and Margaret Lucille Mizelle Dresnok, he was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on November 24, 1941.  He joined the US Army the day after his 17th birthday.  He was serving as a private in the 1st Cavalry Division in South Korea when he got in trouble for forging documents.  Rather than face disciplinary actions, he defected to North Korea.  He was married twice after defecting and was the father of Theodore "Ted" Ricardo Dresnok (born 1980), James Gabriel Dresnock (born 1982) and Tony (born 2001).  Dresnock was an actor in propaganda films and an English tutor in Pyoungyang.  He died of a stroke in November of 2016.

Defected 1963

Parrish, Cpl. Jerry Wayne - Born March 10, 1944 in Morganfield, Kentucky, Corporal White defected to North Korea on December 6, 1963.  He stated that he was afraid to return to the States after his army stint because he thought his father-in-law would kill him.  He became a teacher at North Korea's Reconnaissance Bureau Foreign Language College, a military school in Pyongyang. He married a Lebanese woman named Siham Shraiteh and they had three sons.  Jerry's Korean name was Kim Yu-il.  He died on August 25, 1998 of kidney problems.

Defected 1965

Jenkins, Charles Robert - Born on February 18, 1940 in Rich Square, North Carolina.  He joined the National Guard in 1955 and then the Regular Army in 1958.  He served with the 1st Cavalry Division (1960-61).  He defected to North Korea on January 4, 1965 because of fears of being transferred to Vietnam.  He married Hitomi Soga and they had two daughters, Roberta Mika Jenkins (born 1983) and Brinda Carol Jenkins (born 1985).  He petitioned for a pardon by the United States but was rejected.  He also was rejected for asylum by the Soviet Union in 1966.  Thirty-nine years after his defection to North Korea he finally left the country for Japan.  He and Jim Frederick co-authored the book, The Reluctant Communist.  Jenkins died December 11, 2017 in Sado, Niigata, Japan.

Defected 1979

Chung, Roy (aka Chung Ryeu Sup) - Born circa 1957, Chung died circa 2004.  Chung and his family were South Korean immigrants who arrived in the United States in 1973. According to his father, Chung Soo-oh, he had joined the Army to get education benefits. He disappeared and was reported AWOL on June 5, 1979, while serving with his unit near Bayreuth, West Germany (about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the borders of Czechoslovakia and East Germany). After 30 days he became classified as a deserter. He was 22 and a Private First Class. Two months after his disappearance in Europe, North Korea's international broadcasting service Radio Pyongyang (now Voice of Korea) announced his defection, stating that he "could no longer endure the disgraceful life of national insult and maltreatment he had to lead in the U.S. imperialist aggressor Army."

Defected 1982

White, Pfc. Joseph - son of Norval and Kathleen White of St. Louis.  Last known US defector to North Korea.  After investigation, the Army concluded that White defected to North Korea of his own free will on August 28, 1982 while on duty at Guard Post Ouellette.  Among the last Americans to see him were his roommate, Pfc. David Chapman and the unit's Catholic chaplain.  His parents received a letter from him in February of 1983 stating that he was a tutor of English in Korea and was happy.  His family received another letter from North Korea on Joseph's 24th birthday (November 5, 1985).  The writer stated that White drowned during an outing with friends in the Chongchon River.  


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