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Crossing the Line: James Dresnok US defector to North Korea - Printable Version

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Crossing the Line: James Dresnok US defector to North Korea - Magda Hassan - 15-06-2012

[COLOR=#000000][FONT=sans-serif]James Joseph Dresnok (born 1941) is an American defector to North Korea, one of six American soldiers to defect after the Korean War.
Dresnok worked as an actor and an English teacher in Pyongyang. He was featured on the CBS magazine program 60 Minutes on January 28, 2007, as the last United States defector alive in North Korea, and was the subject of a documentary film entitled Crossing the Line.
He calls himself Joe Dresnok and is referred to as both James Dresnok and Joe Dresnok in news reports, sometimes as both in the same report.

Dresnok was born in Richmond, Virginia. His father was Joseph Dresnok I (19171978). His parents divorced when he was ten years old, and he was briefly raised by his father in Pennsylvania; his mother and younger brother Joseph Dresnok II never again came into contact with them. Dresnok was placed in a foster home, dropped out of high school, and joined the Army one day after his 17th birthday.Early life


Dresnok's first military service was two years in West Germany. After returning to the United States to find that his wife there had left him for another man, he re-enlisted and was sent to South Korea. He was a Private First Class with a U.S. Army unit along the Korean Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in the early 1960s. Soon after his arrival, he found himself facing a court martial for forging signatures on paperwork that gave him permission to leave base and which, ultimately, led to him being AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave).
Unwilling to face punishment, on August 15, 1962, while his fellow soldiers were eating lunch, he ran across a minefield in broad daylight into North Korean territory, where he was quickly apprehended by North Korean soldiers. Dresnok was taken by train toPyongyang, the North Korean capital, and interrogated.
Life in North Korea

"I was fed up with my childhood, my marriage, my military life, everything. I was finished. There's only one place to go," Dresnok said in an interview. "On August 15th, at noon in broad daylight when everybody was eating lunch, I hit the road. Yes I was afraid. Am I gonna live or die? And when I stepped into the minefield and I seen it with my own eyes, I started sweating. I crossed over, looking for my new life."
Dresnok met Larry Allen Abshier, another American defector, soon after his arrival. Eventually there were four of them: Abshier, Jerry Parrish, Charles Robert Jenkins, and Dresnok. The men lived together and participated in several propaganda efforts on behalf of the North Korean government. They appeared on magazine covers and used loudspeakers to try to persuade more American soldiers at the border to defect. However, at first, they did not wish to remain in North Korea indefinitely. In 1966, the four men tried to leave North Korea by seeking asylum at the Soviet embassy in Pyongyang, but were immediately turned over to North Korean authorities by the embassy. Afterwards, Dresnok decided to settle in North Korea and assimilate.
Beginning in 1978, he was cast in several North Korean films, including the 20-part series Unsung Heroes (as an American villain), and became a celebrity in the country as a result. He is called "Arthur" by his Korean friends, after the character he played in the series. He also translated some of North Korean leader Kim Il-sung's writings into English.
According to Jenkins's book, The Reluctant Communist, Dresnok was something of a bully, betraying the other Americans' confidences to the North Koreans, and enthusiastically beat up Jenkins 30 or more times upon the orders of their Korean handlers. In Crossing the Line, Dresnok vehemently denies these allegations.
Marriages and family

In the United States

In the documentary Crossing the Line he explains that after marrying an American woman at a young age, he was deployed in West Germany for two years while she remained in the U.S. He prided himself on "truly loving her and being loyal to her". But when he returned, he found she was already in another relationship. He was quoted as saying, "The good thing was that she did not get pregnant by me because I had promised that I would never abandon my children."
In North Korea

He has been married twice more since defecting to North Korea. The first was to a Romanian woman named Doina Bumbea (referred to as "Dona" in Jenkins's autobiography), with whom he had two sons, Theodore "Ted" Ricardo Dresnok and James Gabriel Dresnok. Bumbea supposedly worked at the Romanian Embassy; some accounts claim that she never worked at the embassy and was an abductee, taken by the North Korean secret service
Jenkins's book also mentions this, but also claims that she was abducted to be the wife of one of the American deserters. The website of the Romanian Foreign Office says Romania asked North Korea in 2007 to explain the abduction of Bumbea, but did not receive any answers Bumbea died of lung cancer.
After Bumbea's death, Dresnok married his third wife, the daughter of a North Korean woman and a Togolese diplomat. They had a son in 2001. The family lives in a small apartment in Pyongyang; it was provided along with a monthly stipend by the North Korean government. Today, Dresnok is in failing health, with a bad heart and liver (Dresnok describes his liver as "full of fat"), which he attributes to smoking and drinking too much.
His eldest son from his second marriage, James Dresnok, was a student at Pyongyang University of Foreign Studies, where his father taught English in the 1980s. James speaks English with a Korean accent and considers himself Korean although he reportedly does not wish to marry a Korean woman. James intends to enter the diplomatic service.
Dresnok has stated that he intends to spend the rest of his life in North Korea, and that no amount of money could entice him back to the West. Currently in retirement, Dresnok occasionally gives lectures in North Korea and spends his time fishing "just to pass the time."

Dresnok is the subject of a documentary film entitled Crossing the Line by British filmmakers Daniel Gordon and Nicholas Bonner, which was shown at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.
He was also featured in An American in North Korea, a 2007 segment on 60 Minutes by Robert G. Anderson and Casey Morgan.
Other defectors to North Korea
Film credits
See also