Dir: Daniel Gordon
Narrator: Christian Slater
In 2004 the world watched as Charles Jenkins, a 1960s American defector to North Korea, gave himself up on Japanese soil to be extradited back to the United States. In the following months the media couldn’t get enough of Jenkins’ story on how he defected to the communists while he was serving as a soldier in South Korea, and how he came to marry a Japanese woman kidnapped by the North Koreans to teach their spies how to get by in Japanese society.
However Charles Jenkins was not the only American soldier to defect to North Korea. Including Jenkins there were four defectors in total and Daniel Gordon’s ‘Crossing the Line’ attempts to get up close and personal with James Dresnok, who with Jenkins gone, is the only remaining defector to remain in North Korea (the two other defectors, Larry Abshier and Jerry Parrish, are now dead).
Throughout the documentary Dresnok tells us how much he has enjoyed and still enjoys life in one of the largest U.S.-hating nations in the world. It would be easy to take Mr. Dresnok at his word – the man seems genuinely open and friendly towards the film makers – however a sneaking suspicion that all may not be as it seems creeps into the back of your mind when Jenkins’ testimony is thrown into the mix, and tends to contradict everything Dresnok has said. Also Dresnok seems to have forgotten that in 1966 all 4 defectors tried to defect again, this time from North Korea to the Soviet Union.
As far as documentaries go this is neither the best nor the worst you’ll see. Unfortunately a lot of the subject matter has already been covered with the exposure given to Charles Jenkins a few years ago, so while ‘Crossing the Line’ isn’t exactly fresh; it is still interesting to hear the other side of the story.