Hitomi Soga

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Hitomi Soga
Soga in 2023
Born (1959-05-17) May 17, 1959 (age 64)
DisappearedAugust 12, 1978 (age 19)
Other namesMin Hye-gyeong
Known forKidnapping victim
(m. 1980; died 2017)
  • Mika Soga-Jenkins (daughter)
  • Brinda Soga-Jenkins (daughter)

Hitomi Soga-Jenkins (Japanese: 曽我ひとみ Soga Hitomi, born May 17, 1959) is a Japanese woman who was abducted to North Korea together with her mother, Miyoshi Soga, from Sado Island, Japan, in 1978. In 1980, she married Charles Robert Jenkins,[1] an American defector to North Korea, with whom she had two daughters. In 2002, she was allowed to return to Japan, followed two years later by her husband and children.

Abduction and life in North Korea[edit]

Hitomi Soga with her mother Miyoshi Soga, early 1960s

Soga, a nurse, was returning home from shopping with her mother Miyoshi, 46, when they were abducted from her hometown of Mano-cho, now part of the city of Sado, Niigata, on August 12, 1978, and taken to North Korea to train agents in Japanese customs and language. Her mother, Miyoshi, was later separated from her and has not been heard from since. The North Koreans gave Soga the Korean name Min Hye-gyeong (Korean: 민혜경). She met Jenkins in early July 1980, when he was asked to teach her English, and they married on August 8, 1980. They had two daughters,[1] Mika and Brinda.[2][3][4]


Soga was one of a group of five Japanese abductees whom North Korea allowed to visit their homeland in September 2002. Though the trip was intended to be brief, she, like her four companions, never returned to North Korea. She and many Japanese called on North Korea to release family members who had been left behind. On July 9, 2004, Soga was reunited with her husband and two daughters in Jakarta, Indonesia, which had been chosen as a neutral venue to allay fears that Jenkins would be arrested.[5] The family came to Japan on July 18, 2004.[6]

Jenkins was court-martialed and incarcerated for "desertion" at a U.S. military installation in Japan for 26 days then released. According to media reports, the family settled in Soga's hometown of Mano, on Sado Island.[7]

In October 2012, she reportedly pleaded with the North Korean government for the release of her mother and other abductees.[8][9] Charles Robert Jenkins died in 2017.[10]

Hitomi Soga (front row, third from left) with Shinzō Abe and Donald Trump in Japan, 2017

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Report of the detailed findings of the commission of inquiry on human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, United Nations Human Rights Council, February 7, 2014, p. 311, archived from the original on February 27, 2014
  2. ^ From Hell With Love, TIME, October 24, 2005
  3. ^ Seales, Rebecca (December 14, 2017). "US defector's extraordinary N Korea love story". BBC News.
  4. ^ "American who defected to North Korea dies". BBC News. December 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Japan abductee meets family again, BBC News Online, July 9, 2004
  6. ^ Alleged deserter arrives in Japan, CNN.com, July 18, 2004
  7. ^ Army deserter leaves Japanese town for first visit to U.S. in 40 years, Associated Press, USA Today, June 13, 2005
  8. ^ 10 years after, former abductees still trying to erase the horrors of North Korea Archived October 19, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Asahi Shimbun, October 15, 2012
  9. ^ Soga calls for abductees' return, Japan Times, October 8, 2012
  10. ^ "Charles Jenkins: US soldier who defected to North Korea dies". BBC News. December 12, 2017. Archived from the original on August 4, 2019. Retrieved March 19, 2022. A former US sergeant who defected to North Korea and became Pyongyang's prisoner for nearly 40 years has died.

External links[edit]