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Larry Allen Abshier
Born 1943
Died July 11, 1983 (aged 40)
Place of birth Urbana, Illinois, United States
Place of death Pyongyang, North Korea
Allegiance United States (until 1962)
 North Korea (1962–1983)
Service/branch United States Army seal United States Army
Years of service unknown-1962
Rank Army-USA-OR-02.svg Private

Private Larry Allen Abshier of the U.S. Army (1943 – July 11, 1983) was one of four American soldiers to defect to North Korea after the Korean War.[1] He was born in Urbana, Illinois.

Defecting[edit | edit source]

Private Abshier abandoned his post in South Korea in May 1962 when he crept away from his base and crossed the DMZ into North Korea. He was, for three months, the only American in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, until Private James Joseph Dresnok defected in August.

In the 2006 documentary movie Crossing the Line, Dresnok recalls waking up to see a white face looking at him. "I opened my eyes. I didn’t believe myself. I shut them again. I must be dreaming. I opened them again and looked and, 'Who in the hell are you?' He says, 'I'm Abshier.' 'Abshier? I don’t know no Abshier.'"[2]

Abshier, and three other Americans, James Joseph Dresnok, Charles Robert Jenkins, and Jerry Wayne Parrish, starred in several other propaganda films like Unsung Heroes, playing the evil Americans. Their participation in these films made them instant celebrities. Abshier and the other three became a propaganda bonanza, and carefully staged pictures were leaked outside the country of the four living in what was framed to appear as a utopian North Korea; the men always appeared successful, carefree, and happy.[3][4]

Life in North Korea[edit | edit source]

Charles Jenkins wrote in his book The Reluctant Communist that Abshier had difficulty conversing in Korean but was fascinated by words and would spend hours studying high-level vocabulary from newspapers. Jenkins reported that the four were moved in a one-room house in Mangyongdae-guyok in June 1965, where they lived together for several years and were forced to read and memorize passages by Kim Il Sung. Jenkins asserted that Dresnok would bully Abshier at this time, for example, by making a mess and then demanding that Abshier clean it up. Abshier was sympathetically characterized by Jenkins as "a simple, sweet, good-hearted soul who was more than a little dumb and easy to take advantage of."[5]

For a time, Dresnok and Parrish pejoratively called Abshier "Lennie" after the simpleton of John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men. Abshier never stood up to the bullying until convinced to do so by Jenkins. Eventually, Dresnok "made a move" on Abshier, but Jenkins defended him by beating Dresnok, after which Dresnok permanently transferred his animosity to Jenkins. Abshier, like Dresnok, Parrish, and Jenkins, was "given" a North Korean woman to be his cook and minder, and to have sex with him. These women were thought to be infertile, having all divorced after a number of years of childless marriage. When Abshier's woman became pregnant, however, she was taken away.[6]

Later, Abshier married another woman. In Crossing the Line, Dresnok claims she was Korean, but in The Reluctant Communist, Jenkins claims she was a Thai woman named Anocha Panjoy who was given to Abshier by the North Korean government. Jenkins claims she was a former prostitute who had been working as a masseuse in Macau when she was abducted by North Korean agents and brought to North Korea. Shortly thereafter, in 1978, she was "given" to Abshier. Jenkins' account of her abduction was greeted with incredulity, until he produced a photograph of her in North Korea, opening up the possibility that North Korea has abducted citizens of other nations in addition to those of Japan. They had no children. After Abshier's death, Anocha was taken away, allegedly to marry a German.[7]

Death[edit | edit source]

Abshier died suddenly, shortly after midnight on July 11, 1983 at the age of 40 from a heart attack in Pyongyang. Jenkins wrote that he and Abshier were neighbors at the time, and Abshier's wife, Anocha, called on him for assistance at the time of the incident. By the time Jenkins arrived on the scene, Abshier was beyond rescue and soon exhaled his last breath. His funeral was funded by the state and relatively well-serviced, but Abshier was given a headstone with an incorrect date of death and the false claim that his place of birth was Pyongyang.[8]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

External links[edit | edit source]

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