US Army Defectors to North Korea: The Declassified Files

This page includes hard-to-find information on US defectors to North Korea (plus Roy Chung, a Korean serving in the US Army in Germany who was either a defector or abductee). For basics on their cases, try this page in Wikipedia.

The declassified documents and other information below cover PFC Larry Abshier; PFC Roy Chung; PFC James Joseph “Joe” Dresnok; SP4 Jerry Parrish; Sgt. Charles Jenkins and PFC Joseph White. The records include defection notes, internal Army reports, North Korean propaganda broadcasts, intelligence reports and letters from family members (aside from betraying their country, these men also inflicted great pain on their families, and in some cases, fiancees, as the poignant notes below show.) DMZ War has many more files on these men and will update this page in the future.

We collected information on these defectors from Freedom of Information Act requests to the Pentagon all the way to our visit to North Korea, where we obtained numerous videos from a movie series called “Unsung Heroes” (or “Nameless Heroes”) which features the defectors playing American villains.

This is part of our long investigation of US POWs kept in North Korea (and China and the Soviet Union) after the Korea War. We need to distinguish reported US POWs from the Korean (and Vietnam) War alive in North Korea from these defectors, as well as the 21 US “Turncoats” from the Korean War who converted to communism as POWs and went to China after the Korean War (almost all later returned to the US). [See an example at the bottom of this page of a declassified US report concerning American POWs and defectors in North Korea.]

As part of our research on North Korean espionage and terrorism, we also follow the use of the defectors to teach English to North Korean special operators, as well as the possibility the defectors were used to father children with Koreans and abducted women from other countries as part of a plan to create a new generation of Western-looking spies.

We are also interested in whether any American troops in South Korea (or elsewhere) ended up in North Korea, perhaps after being kidnapped. Some details about the Roy Chung case (below) seem to be consistent with an abduction, although the Army named him a deserter. We uncovered this document about North Korean plans to abduct GIs in Korea.

For more information on defectors and POWs in North Korea, see our book American Trophies (above) and visit our sister site

If you have information on US troops who disappeared under suspicious circumtances, the POW issue, or North Korean special operations against Americans and American assets such as special weapons, please contact us: investigator (at)

North Korean Propaganda Magazine Showing 4 Defectors from the ’60s

PFC James Joseph “Joe” Dresnok: Defected August 1962 Reported Alive in North Korea as of 2014

DMZ Vets Can’t Miss Documentary on Defector James Dresnok

Fascinating and Infuriating

“An unforgettable documentary (New York Daily News), Crossing the Line is the absolutely fascinating (Hollywood Reporter) story of James Joseph Dresnok, a US Army private who in 1962 stunned the world by walking across the violently contested DMZ that cuts Korea in two and defecting to the communist North. Taking full advantage of access granted by the government of North Korea, the axis of evil’s mysterious and feared rogue state, director Daniel Gordon (The Game of Their Lives, A State of Mind) combines historical footage with contemporary interviews to both uncover the Kim-Jong Il regime and end 44 years of secrecy and rumor by allowing Dresnok to tell his own story. Despite spending more than half his life living, working, and raising a family in North Korea, Comrade Joe, as Western media dubbed Dresnok when he walked into infamy at the height of the Cold War, remains a man of eternally divided loyalties. From his appalling childhood in a rural 1950 s Virginia foster home, to interviews with his fellow GI s, to amazing footage (New York Post) of Dresnok playing the villain in Kim-Jong Il s personally produced propaganda films…” PFC Larry Abshier: Defected May 1962 Reportedly Died in North Korea

SP4 Jerry Parrish: Defected December 1963 Reportedly Died in North Korea

Sgt. Charles Robert Jenkins: Defected January 1965
Returned to Japan & Remained There After US Army Court Martial
Alive as of 2014

Jenkins in North Korean Propaganda Movie

The US Army Defector Who Returned from North Korea. A Compelling Read for DMZ Vets Who Wondered About the Other Side

The story of defector Charles Robert “Super” Jenkins will fascinate DMZ vets who wondered what it was like on the other side of the ‘Z. There’s no doubt Sgt. Jenkins betrayed his men, his Army and his country when he went over. However, he is contrite in this book and describes the punishment he got for his actions — the time in North Korea being far worse than the court martial and detention by the US Army.

We were also engrossed by Jenkin’s details about the day-to-day lives of the defectors and their interaction with each other and North Korean society. He describes being beaten and bullied by Dresnok.

“In January of 1965, twenty-four-year-old U.S. Army sergeant Charles Robert Jenkins abandoned his post in South Korea, walked across the DMZ, and surrendered to communist North Korean soldiers standing sentry along the world’s most heavily militarized border. He believed his action would get him back to the States and a short jail sentence. Instead he found himself in another sort of prison, where for forty years he suffered under one of the most brutal and repressive regimes the world has known.” PFC Roy Chung: Defected or Abducted June 1979
Reportedly Died in North Korea
(See Declassified Document Below)

PFC Joseph White: Defected August 1982
Reportedly Died in North Korea

US POWs & Defectors in North Korea Declassified 1996 Pentagon Report

Declassified American intelligence reports from North Korea discuss both US prisoners of war and defectors (the US government still refuses to give us a number of such reports, saying they’re still properly classified. Some Korean War POW-related files in the National Archives from the 1950s also remain classified).

The Pentagon report below covers both alleged POWs and defectors. In some cases, North Korean sources have seen defectors but described them as POWs. However, the defectors cannot be used to explain many other reports, including those discussing 10 or more Americans in North Korea, including blacks (none of the known defectors is black; however, a caucasian wore blackface in one video.)
Some of the reports provide details on the capture of the alleged US prisoner in the Korean War and his life after. US POWs from the Vietnam War have also been reported in North Korea. Pilots and some ground advisors were sent by Pyongyang to help Hanoi during the Vietnam War and related intelligence suggests North Vietnam may have given North Korea some captured Americans.

For more on these reports and information on Americans kept after the Korean War, visit our sister site and see our book American Trophies, immediately below.

Distraught Villager Restrained Trying to Eat Heart from Dead NK Soldier Seven Members of this Man’s Family Killed by NK Team

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