U.S. soldier who defected to North Korea in 1962 dies

By Ed Adamczyk Contact the Author   |  Aug. 22, 2017 at 9:30 AM
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Aug. 22 (UPI) -- James Dresnok, a U.S. soldier who defected to North Korea in 1962, has died, his North Korean-born sons said.

Dresnok, 74, died of a stroke in November, his sons Ted Dresnok, who uses the name Hong Soncheol, and James Dresnok Jr., who uses the name Hong Chul, told American reporter Roh Kil-nam in August. A video of their interview was recently uploaded to Roh's website.

The sons, now in their 30s, were born in Pyongyang and are members of the North Korean military. Their mother was Doina Bumbea, a Romanian abducted by North Korea in 1978, a 2014 United Nations report on human rights in North Korea said.

The elder Dresnok was a Private First Class based in South Korea when, facing marital problems and possible discipline for forging a pass, he cross the Demilitarized Zone and entered North Korea. One of a handful of defecting soldiers, he was believed to be the last deserter still alive in North Korea, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

"I was fed up with my childhood, my marriage, my military life, everything," he said in a 2006 documentary film. "I was finished. There's only one place to go. I crossed over, looking for my new life."

"I have never regretted coming to the People's Republic of North Korea. I feel at home. I really feel at home. I was just a regular soldier. And when I gave it up and came over, I wouldn't trade it for nothing."

Dresnok, originally from Richmond, Va., and known in North Korea as "Comrade Joe," was used heavily for North Korea propaganda purposes, praising life in the country -- his voice could be heard across the DMZ separating north and South Korea, urging U.S. soldiers to defect and enjoy beautiful women and better food -- and appearing in at least one feature film as a bad-guy American.

After his health began failing, his sons spoke on their father's behalf, but with the same layer of propaganda and overwhelming support of North Korea heard from their father.

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