The two men, both in their 30s, say they are both married with children and use the surname “Hong” in North Korea.
In the video, both are wearing North Korean pins on their lapels, and James Dresnok is in a military uniform. He says he is a captain in the Korean People’s Army, and that he joined the army to help protect North Korea from the American threat.
“I observed the current condition caused by the anti-North Korean policy by the United States,” he says. “I decided I have to join the Korean People’s Army. I decided I have to protect this country.”
The men say their father is James Joseph Dresnok, an American GI who, according to the Pentagon, defected to North Korea in 1962. The elder Dresnok crossed the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and has lived since in the north.
It is unclear if he is still alive, but if so he would be in his mid-70s. He appeared in a 2006 documentary called “Crossing the Line” in which he justified his defection and defended the North Korean regime. He also has appeared in North Korean movies, playing an American bad guy — as have the sons, with a clip of the three posted on YouTube.
American defectors are considered a valuable propaganda tool by the North Korean regime, according to Balbina Hwang, a visiting professor at Georgetown University.
“It’s very odd because they clearly are completely indoctrinated into the North Korean system,” said Hwang. “Remember, these two brothers were actually born in North Korea. It’s the only world that they know,” she said.
“They’re the ultimate examples of the Stockholm Syndrome,” Hwang added, referring to situations in which captives bond with their captors.
The Pentagon acknowledged in 1996 that at least four American servicemen had defected to North Korea over the decades: Pvt. James Dresnok, Pvt. Larry A. Abshier, Cpl. Jerry W. Parrish, and Sgt. Robert Jenkins.
Jenkins was allowed to leave North Korea in 2004, and in his book “The Reluctant Communist” he said that his decision to defect in 1965 was the biggest mistake of his life. He said during his time in North Korea, he was forced to read the writings of North Korea’s rulers eight hours a day, and teach English to North Korean spies.
He said in his book that James Joseph Dresnok was not married to a North Korean woman, but to a woman from Romania who said she was tricked into traveling to Pyongyang and was not allowed to leave.
Ted and James Dresnok may have grown up under difficult conditions, according to Greg Scarlatoiu with the Washington, D.C.-based Committee for Human Rights in North Korea.
“I’m absolutely certain that they have lived their lives under suspicion, under relentless surveillance,” he said.
But Scarlatoiu, who confirmed that the two men in this week’s video are the Dresnok brothers, added that he believes the brothers have also been “protected to a certain extent, because they’re such a great propaganda asset.”
Indeed, in their video, the brothers praise their quality of life in Pyongyang, as well as the “superiority of socialism, and the benevolent policy” of the ruling Kim family in North Korea.
Officials for the State Department, CIA, and the office of the Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the video.