Charles Robert Jenkins deserted the U.S. Army on a freezing night in January 1965. He pounded 10 beers to quiet his nerves, and abandoned his patrol unit along the border dividing South and North Korea — a 160-mile-long, 2.5-mile-wide strip of mine-ridden no man’s land.
He unloaded his M-16 rifle to show the enemy he meant no harm; he raised his knees high to avoid triggering tripwires. Several hours later, he crossed into North Korea.
He didn’t leave for nearly 40 years.
Now, Jenkins — 77 but looking much older, with a deep-lined face and distant expression — lives a quiet life on Sado, a small, pastoral island in the Sea of Japan. He speaks in the thick Southern accent...