Last Surviving US Defector to North Korea Is Dead

James Dresnok crossed border after fighting in Korean War
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 21, 2017 7:11 AM CDT
Last Surviving US Defector to North Korea Is Dead
James Dresnok, in a screen shot from a BBC documentary.   (YouTube)

He might have been the most famous American in North Korea. But now James "Joe" Dresnok, a US soldier who defected after fighting in the Korean War, is dead, reports the Guardian. His two Korean-born sons made the news public in a government video, saying their father had suffered a stroke and died at age 74. Dresnok was one of a few American soldiers to cross into North Korea in 1962, and he went on to star in propaganda films, generally as the evil American. The BBC made a documentary about him in 2006 called Crossing the Line in which he said he had no regrets about his defection. "I wouldn't trade it for nothin,'" the native of Richmond, Va., says in the video. (The film is on YouTube. CBS' 60 Minutes also did a feature on Dresnok, which can be seen here.) The few other Americans who defected are believed to have died or left the country.

Dresnok, who crossed a minefield into the North, had faced a court-martial for leaving his base without permission for a night on the town. "I was fed up with my childhood, my marriage, my military life, everything," he said. Sons Ted and James Dresnok, aka Hong Soon-chol and Hong Chol, spoke of their father in the new state video. "Our father was in the arms of the republic and received only the love and care of the party until his passing at age 74," said Ted Dresnok. Though half-American himself, Ted Dresnok showed where his loyalties lie, warning that if war breaks out, "we will not miss the opportunity and wipe the land of the US from the earth for ever." His brother had a similar sentiment, saying: "We have our dear supreme commander Kim Jong Un. If he is by our side, our victory is certain." (You can see the two of them in this video from about a year ago.)

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