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A Cold War love story

North Korea
United States

(CNN) -- Hitomi Soga was kidnapped by North Korean agents in 1978 -- one of at least 15 Japanese grabbed in a bizarre plot to train North Korean spies.

She didn't return to her homeland until 24 years later, part of a program to improve bilateral relations between Japan and North Korea.

But her life is far more complicated.

In 1980, she met and later married American Charles Robert Jenkins, a man who disappeared from his U.S. Army unit near Korea's De-Militarized Zone in 1965 while leading a night patrol.

The Army says Jenkins was a deserter and slipped into North Korea.

His relatives however claim he was abducted and brainwashed and have demanded a pardon.

Jenkins has lived in North Korea since then but there are few details about how he has spent the last four decades. He has appeared in North Korean propaganda films and has probably had something of a pampered lifestyle in the Stalinist state.

The former soldier met Soga while he was working as an English teacher. She was one of his students.

Afraid he would be arrested and extradited to the United States, Jenkins did not join his wife in Japan.

For nearly two years, he and his two daughters waited for the return of Soga, while Japan, North Korea and the United States debated their fate.

"This is a humanitarian issue for Mrs. Hitomi Soga," Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said.

But the United States may see things differently.

"Sgt. Jenkins is, of course, a deserter from the U.S. Army and those charges remain outstanding," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said.

However, a diplomatic compromise was hatched -- a reunion in Indonesia, which has no extradition treaty with the U.S. and thus would avoid legal problems over Jenkins' status.

"They are allowed to stay one month. Of course, we will be flexible if they need more time to stay longer in Indonesia," explained Indonesia's Foreign Minister Hassan Wirayuda.

Soga, 45, awaited the arrival of Jenkins and their daughters, Mika and Belinda, at one of Jakarta's five star hotels.

"I'll see my family for the first time in 18 months. I'm very grateful to the Indonesian government for what they've done to help," she told reporters on Thursday.

Soga was a young nurse when she was kidnapped by North Korean agents as she ventured home from shopping with her mother.

She returned to Japan in October 2002 along with four other Japanese abductees, but all five had to leave their families behind.

However, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi won the release of the others' five children during a May summit in Pyongyang.

Jenkins' trip to Indonesia will be the first time he has stepped out of reclusive North Korea in almost 40 years.

Unknown is how long the reunion will last or whether Jenkins and his family are prepared to permanently leave North Korea.

-- CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief Maria Ressa contributed to this report.

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