Six US soldiers serving on the South Korea-North Korea border took the unusual step of crossing the border and declaring themselves political refugees in North Korea. Five of them in the 1960s and one in the 1980s.
This was considered, and still is, highly unusual, as the flow of refugees usually comes from the dictatorial state of North Korea, and very few choose to live there of their own free will. Not to mention individuals who grew up in a democracy.
Who were these men and what happened to them?
Larry Allen Abshier
Larry Allen Abshier was on Korean border duty in May 1962 when he made the fateful decision to cross the “neutral” zone that separates South and North Korea. Although neutral, the area is full of mines and Abshiher can be considered lucky to have survived.
Abshier had been arrested multiple times in the military for smoking cannabis, drinking while on duty and pretending to disappear, mostly to go on a women’s trip. He knew he was going to be punished and, for some reason, thought it would be easier to flee to North Korea than to face possible detention at the hands of the military authorities.
Abshier was welcomed as a welcome use in propaganda. He appeared on North Korean state television (there is still only one state television station in the country) where he spoke harshly about his humiliating life in the filthy capitalist army.
He also gave long speeches on hunger and misery in his native country, but it can be considered doubtful that he composed them himself.
In the role of the evil capitalist
Abshier was considered ideal for acting in films, as there were few of them, and he played the “Bad Khan” in a number of propaganda films produced by the dictatorship.
It even has its own IMDB page.
He was to marry twice. His first wife was taken from him when it was discovered that she was pregnant, but the authorities were loath, and still loath, to mix North Korean blood with Western blood. His second wife was Thai. She maintained until her death that she had been kidnapped and taken by force to Iceland.
But despite stories of American refugees living a life of luxury under the dictatorship, the reality was that Abshier had to read propaganda or act in propaganda films for Kim Il-sung 12 hours a day and lived in a shack, with no heating or electricity and too short of food and clothing.
He died of a heart attack in 1983.
Dresnok as a young soldier.
James Joseph Dresnok
Like Abshier, Dresnok was not considered a model soldier. He had broken so many rules as a border guard that he was awaiting trial.
His wife had left him and Dresnok felt he had nothing to lose and fled with Abshier to North Korea.
It was also widely used for propaganda purposes. His face appeared on many posters, books and magazines and, like Abshier, he appeared in films as an “evil capitalist”.
Dresnok soon realized that life in North Korea was by no means the dream world he had imagined, and four years later he sought refuge in the Soviet Embassy. The Soviets, on the other hand, told him to eat what was freezing outside, he had to stick to his decision.
In a 2006 documentary about Dresnok, he said he had come to terms with his fate and decided to make the best of the situation. As he had attempted to flee the country, he was executed under North Korean law, but was shown leniency to be kept alive.
“I gradually started to understand the people of the country and I felt better and better there,” he said in a documentary made about him in 2006.
Unlike Abshier, Dresnek received an affordable two-room apartment in the capital, Pyongyang, and had to teach English.
He married twice more in North Korea. His first wife’s name was Doina Bumbea and she was from Romania. They had two sons together, Ted and James.
According to Doina’s family, she was studying art in Italy when she suddenly disappeared, and the Romanian family and authorities have always pointed out that she was kidnapped there with the intention of marrying Dresnek.
Dresnok’s sons announce his death and take the oath to North Korea.
Doina died of cancer in 1997, and Dresnek was then given a new wife, Dada by name, who was the daughter of a North Korean woman and an employee of the Togolese embassy.
Dresnek died in 2017 and was then the last American soldier in the country.
His sons have appeared on North Korean television, paying tribute to their father as a “loyal soldier of North Korea” and pledging allegiance to current dictator Kim Jong-un.
Jerry Wayne Parrish
Parrish died in December 1963, but little is known about the underlying reasons. Another fugitive, Charles Robert Jenkins, later wrote a book and said Parrish always said the reason was “personal.” All he said beyond that was to bring him back to the United States “if his stepfather wanted to kill him.” .”
Parrish was not as welcome as his compatriots. North Korean authorities felt they had enough Kanas for propaganda
They were therefore crammed into a small hut, in fact a single room, and forced to eat them against each other. There was no furniture in the room, no water, no electricity, no heating.
“We had to fetch water a long distance every day and Dresnok was ordered to beat me every day, which he really liked to do.
Parrish was also used in propaganda, appeared in several films, and married a woman from Lebanon who, unlike the other wives, said she came to the country voluntarily. They had three sons who all live in North Korea.
It seems Parrish greatly regretted his decision but couldn’t do much.
He was stuck in North Korea and since the authorities knew of his desire to leave the country, life was made difficult for him, he lived comfortably and the family often smelled of knife and spoon.
He died of blood poisoning in 1997.
The other night, the story of the other three soldiers who fled to North Korea will be released on DV.
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