In 1962, Private First Class James Joe Dresnok defected to North Korea. He was one of 21 Americans who crossed the line and went north of the DMZ. Dresnok was the product of a broken home. His father was a laborer and his mother was a housewife. Apparently his father was a difficult man who imposed rules that neither Joe nor his mother could bear. His mother left and took him with her. They lived on the streets of Richmond Virginia and out of their car. Eventually she left him and a court shuffle him between foster homes and Joe knew he was not wanted.
He had nothing. No family to speak of, no self-esteem and certainly no money or friends. He was looking for freedom, and he was looking for some meaning in life. Like so many in his shoes, he joined the Army. He joined when he was only 17 but the Army gave him a reprieve. Once he joined the Army, he attended church and married a woman he met in the church. In the Army he was sent to Germany for a posting and upon his return he found his wife had left.
In 1962 he returned to the Army and was posted in South Korea at the Demilitarized Zone. While the Korean War’s major hostilities ended there was no peace treaty ever signed. The DMX was established at 2.5 miles wide and 150 miles long coast to coast. South Korea was very poor and at the time far behind the North as an industrial power. Kim Song Il, the North Korean strongman inculcated into the North Korean population the idea that the Americans were an imperialist power that had bombed them and killed their families. The fact is there was a low-grade war still happening with North Korean incursions and kidnappings. People were still getting shot and we see today there are still military events happening even today.
When Dresnok was not on patrol he became a regular visitor to the brothels in towns near the Army base. VD rates were rampant Army medical personnel were busy and so were base commanders who had to keep an eye on their lascivious soldiers.
Dreskot forged a pass and went to brothel town. After he returned from that visit he knew he was about to be court martialed and decided to defect. He went to a fence in Panmunjob where the check point exists guarded by both sides abd shot off the lock and headed into the area. Americans fired at him and so did North Koreans but series of benign events and compassionate North Korean commander decided to take him into custody.
He is now over 70 years old and still quite the star in Pyongyang. In fact, he and three other defectors starred in North Korean propaganda movies where they played the evil Americans. He speaks Korean perfectly and his English is festooned with a Virginia accent. He chain-smokes, drinks, and receives a regularly high amount of rations. He is treated like a king there and regrets nothing. He has married and has two grown boys who are doing fairly well, or as well as one might expect to do under an absolute dictatorship.