April 23, 2024

When the first American soldier defected to North Korea

"The people in North Korea are enjoying freedom and happiness inaccessible to the working people of the United States"

Private First Class Larry Allen Abshier made a decision of incomprehensible permanence on May 28, 1962.  Just 19-years old, he took off into the minefield-laden abyss of the Korean DMZ, running northward with reckless abandon.  Stunned, American soldiers watched Abshier—the first U.S. soldier to defect to North Korea since the Korean War—disappear into a new life from which he would never return.

On June 13, North Korean radio announced Abshier's defection, saying he could no longer stand a "humiliating life” in the American military; "I was conscience-stricken by the behavior of the United States Army in South Korea,” the defector was quoted as saying in a later broadcast.

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